Oh rats! Wanted: Pied Piper of Sonoma
Magic flutes luring rodents of Hamelin is a fairy tale. Living in Sonoma is often like living in a fairy tale of sorts, as the town welcomes throngs of visitors who are also lured by its charm. Yet, there is also an elusive, unwanted visitor that is now making Sonoma’s east side its home.
Elusive by nature, this unwelcomed lodger may soon overrun this end of town, as it is quite possible there may be more of them than residents. Rats have great survival instincts and one female can reproduce more than 200 offspring within 18 months. And they have moved in.
This delicate ecosystem is out of balance and the local environment will greatly suffer due to the impending strain as the rats scrape for food, shelter and continue to wander into unnatural habits and homes in search of somewhere to breed.
More importantly, one must consider that disease will be an important factor while one prays that the ecosystem makes an attempt to regain the natural balance and order. Cats, as in feral, are the predators most likely to pursue and attack in order to wean the population. Large birds, such a gulls, hawks, falcons and owls that feed regularly on rats are also a natural solution. Various snake species also prey upon rats. Due to their quick movements, their attacks are mostly successful.
Can Sonoma afford to wait for Mother Nature to restore balance? Or will the rats’ insatiable appetite to reproduce with alarming numbers in short periods of time be too much of a strain?
With imbalance there is always a cause-and-effect relationship at play. Without humans, the rats would probably not be that successful. Human living habits have provided them with homes and food. Many of their predators have been eliminated. Yet, the rats hold great teachers if one has the courage to see.
The rat reflects back to us our own human capacity for greed. They often throw-up rather than let food go by. And they will depose other small animals from their homes, if they can, for fear of competition for food. They are bullys. They personify our imperialistic drive.
The effects are, they come into our house for protection, particularly when they are ready to nest and have babies. They can reproduce year round and anytime of the year is a good time, as far as they are concerned.
So, before one goes off to lay down poisons or hire exterminators, look to yourselves first. What type of sanitation practices do you implement? Do you have rat-proof receptacles for trash? Do you dispose of it before dark? Is the landscape planned and are shrubs maintained?
Also, what are the housing construction standards? This needs to be asked since rats often come into the houses by way of gaps in pipe entry and foundations. They also climb. They can climb trees, wires, siding, vines, stucco and get to roof tops from nearby overhanging limbs.
Look for signs of gnawed wood and plastic. They chew to cut their teeth. Look for waste trails and grease stains on walls. Listen for their scurrying in walls and on attic floors. If you have any of these signs, then you know they are here.
Herein lies the need for the community to gather and organize to create a proactive strategic approach to resolving this imbalance. Awareness is the beginning of the process. A committee needs to be created in an effort to control prevalence. Sonoma needs a sustainable solution, not stopgaps.
Animal overpopulation always threatens to change the entire make-up of an ecosystem. We, as the cause, need to make the attempt to restore balance. It needs to be done now.