Morris: Neighbor's trees harboring rats, wildlife and trouble

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Apr 26, 2013 in Rat Answers | Subscribe

DEAR JOAN: We have renters next door with four large cypress trees. They harbor lots of rats — we have seven secure baits around our fence line — and now an opossum and a pair of fat raccoons.

All of these critters scurry around at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 3 a.m., waking our dogs, who go nuts, and of course, us. I’ve asked the property owner to remove the trees — to no avail. We don’t have any kind of pet food outside but several of our neighbors do. I know this doesn’t help.

Any other repellent, trap, sound device or something we could use or do? Should we call vector control? What are our legal rights as far as a nuisance goes and demanding these trees be removed? Help.


San Jose

DEAR SLEEPLESS: If you read my column with any regularity, then you’ll know that I’m going to encourage you to remove those bait stations. There is too much risk at killing things other than your intended target. Rats eat the poison, your dogs eat the rats and now you dogs are poisoned, too. Raptors also are at risk.

I know taking them out is tough to do because that’s your main line of defense. But let’s try some offense.

Rats, as well as opossums and raccoons, are opportunistic animals who hang around where they have food. Get rid of the food, you get rid of the problem. If the rats are in the trees,

it’s because they are finding food to sustain them, not just because they are fond of cypress.

You don’t keep pet food around, but how about other foods? Do you have fruit trees? Is your garbage secured? Do you fill your bird feeders with seeds, sunflower seeds or peanuts?

I’m not trying to shift the blame onto you, just to get you to look closely at what’s in your yard that might be encouraging them to come visit, and what you can remove.

You can install automatic motion sensor devices that turn on bright lights or a stream of water whenever anything moves in your backyard. You also can set a radio beneath the trees, set it to an all night talk radio show and leave it on. The problem, of course, is that they soon figure out it’s not hurting them any, and continue their scavenging.

I don’t really like to kill anything, but without some sort of control, rat populations would soon overtake us. Old-fashioned rat traps seem your best shot.

As for your legal rights, you’ll need to consult an attorney. At the very least, a good pruning might help and I think you have the right to trim the overhang into your yard.

Clarification on grubs

I recently answered a question about grubs and said they were probably Japanese beetles. Fortunately, Japanese beetles are not in California and the state Department of Food and Agriculture works hard to keep them out. Instead, the most common grubs around here are masked chafers.

Visit with Gary

I love my new job as pets and wildlife columnist, but I sure miss chatting with friend and former co-worker Gary Bogue. But hey, we can join him for “Coffee and Conversation” to benefit the Lindsay Wildlife Museum, 1931 First Ave., Walnut Creek.

Join Gary for two discussions and informal chats on wildlife and pets, 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. April 30 and May 7.

Bring your coffee cup; the museum provides the coffee. Pre-registration is strongly advised by going to or stopping by the museum’s front desk. The sessions are $10 a person, $5 for museum members.

Joan Morris’ column runs five days a week in print and online. Contact her at; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.

Tags: , , , , ,

Copyright © 2020 RatChatter All rights reserved.
RatChatter v1.0 theme from