Rats and mice in the garden

with Brownie

WITH the weather warming and the rains starting, we’ll see an increase in pests around the yard.

Introduced mice and rats are common across our region, loving the smorgasbord of delights we provide in our chook runs, bird aviaries and compost bins.

Mice and rats not only create damage by chewing and eating, they can also carry and spread serious diseases that can affect us and our pets.

We do have a few native rats (swamp rat, bush rat and water rat) and mouse-like marsupials (antechinus, melomys and water mouse) that cohabit with us. They’ll cause you little grief and provide a good food source for native birds and reptiles.

It’s important to first try to work out if you’re lucky enough to have these native critters rather than the pesky pest varieties. It’s too involved to explain all the identification differences between the natives and all the ferals but a good place to start is the Queensland Museum (https://cutt.ly/qEP8Y55) and the Australian Museum (https://cutt.ly/PEP8O72).

Next, see if you can dissuade them by removing access to food sources or making it hard for them to gain access such as using vermin-proof netting.

If you need to control the mice or rats, you basically have three options (and I’m not including buying a cat or getting a snake).

The most humane option is live traps. These are cages or tube traps where the animals are lured with food or an attractant, and they can’t get back out.

The benefit is that you can check if it is a native or a pest before dealing with it. If it’s a pest, the downside is that you then have to deal with it.

Most people just let the mouse or rat go somewhere else, which sounds good but you’re most likely giving the problem to someone else or allowing the released animal to damage the environment where it’s released.

According to the RSCPA releasing it may also not be as humane as you think. It says that the available evidence suggests the survival rate of relocated animals is often very low. Releasing animals into a new location is therefore unlikely to be a more humane alternative to killing them quickly and painlessly.

If you’re not up to doing that yourself, the option is to take the animal in the live trap as soon as possible to the nearest vet for humane euthanasia.

Next on the list is what are called snap traps. These are the traditional mouse and rat traps that use a bait to lure the animal, which triggers a sprung mechanism that quickly and cleanly delivers a deadly blow to the head or neck.

The RSPCA says that, if used correctly, they can be a more humane way to dispose of a pest animal than live trapping.

The downside is that it kills (or injures) what it catches and that could be a native animal or a pet if the trap is placed poorly.

The third, and most controversial, option is the use of a mouse or rat bait.

People often choose to use bait when there are lots of rats or mice, when they are in a hard to deal with spot (like a narrow roof cavity) or – more often – because it gives people an option where the animal dies unseen, so we don’t have to deal with that unpleasantness.

Although baiting is an easy option, it is risky for children, pets and wildlife.

However, because this topic is a bit more involved than trapping, I’ll cover it in my column in the November 9 edition.