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Environmentally Conscious Rodent Control

ratThe winter season is a prime time of year for rodents to take up residence in your attic, garage or even under your car’s hood.  When you have unwanted rodents on your property, poison is often the first solution that comes to mind. But most people don't realize the danger this choice poses not only to children and pets, but also to wildlife. Anticoagulant rodenticides - i.e., rodent poisons that stop blood clotting to create lethal internal bleeding - don't just kill rats, gophers and ground squirrels. Non-target predators such as hawks, owls, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, and domestic cats feed on the poisoned rodents and become severely ill or die themselves. It may take several days for a rodent to die, making it easier prey for predators in the meantime.

Integrated Pest Management is the Solution
Some experts assert that poison does not kill off the pest population, but rather only makes it cycle up and down. Integrated pest management, or IPM, is an alternative, eco-friendly strategy. It focuses on long-term prevention of pests and their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control and habitat manipulation. IPM cuts costs compared to poison-based rodent control programs and is completely safe to use.

Some IPM techniques you can use to reduce rodent populations include:

  • Limit all access to food, water, and shelter. The most important thing you can do is to keep all food sources, including bird seed and pet food, in secure, locked containers.
  • Trash, recycling and compost bins should be kept closed at all times.
  • If you feed birds in your garden, consider getting a "squirrel baffle," a large plastic or metal device placed on the pole of a bird feeder. It is designed to deter squirrels, raccoons and other small mammals from accessing the bird food.
  • Seal any holes that lead indoors with metal mesh or other similar effective material.
  • Maintain landscaping. Thin out brush where the rodents hide. Many rodents, including rats and voles, do not like visibility or change and will often leave if you modify or thin the cover in the area where they are nesting.
  • Predator urine can be purchased online from a number of different vendors on Amazon and elsewhere, and placed as a deterrent in areas where you have seen pests.
  • Kill traps are also effective choices, since it is illegal in California to trap and move live animals. A couple of years ago the Pacific Coast Business Times reported on the GopherHawk, a new poison-free gopher and mole trap available on Amazon. This product, designed and manufactured in Oxnard, uses a probe and auger to set an underground snare in the rodent's tunnel. When the trigger is moved, it snaps and kills the gopher instantly, displaying an indicator above ground so the owner can remove it.
    Types of Kill traps you can employ:
    • Electrocution Traps: traps that kill rats by electrocution
    • Live Traps: least preferable trap option, as once the rodent is caught, it remains alive and must be handled appropriately.
    • Snap Traps: A simple and well tested method for catching smaller rodents.
  • If you have the space, install owl boxes and allow a natural predator to manage the population of rodents.

By employing these poison-free techniques, you will not only be protecting pets and kids, you will also be doing local wildlife a huge favor. The City of Thousand Oaks has taken steps to protect people, pets, and animal predators by discontinuing all City use of rodenticides. 

To properly dispose of any old or unwanted rodenticides, pesticides, or other toxic or hazardous waste, please make an appointment to take the material to the City’s Household Hazardous Waste Facility.

For more helpful links, resources and information, go to the rodent control page on our website. (See also our web page on Integrated Pest Management.)

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