Rats, mice, and squirrels have long since been pest species for human society around the world for millennia. They do more than bite and scratch; these destructive animals are voracious eaters and reproduce rapidly, and this can wreak havoc on a local human settlement or farm. In medieval and ancient times, cats and dogs were used to hunt down and eat intruding rodents like these, but even today, these rodents are a serious problem anywhere. The world’s food supply is a constant target; it is believed that up to 20% of the entire world’s food supply is contaminated by rats and mice, and without the work of the pest control industry, rodents and insects of varying species could consume or ruin up to half of the world’s food supply. This all causes untold damage and expenses once the harm is done, so prevention is a necessary step to keep unwanted rodents and other pests out of food supplies and buildings alike.
Rats, and their smaller cousins mice, are classic examples of unwanted rodents. Major American cities have had to deal with enormous populations of them before, and rat-related nuisance calls have increased in number recently. These unwanted rodents are most common in New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco, where animal control calls have risen anywhere from 61% to 174%. Urban environments are a tough place for wildlife control, since the countless small spaces and constant food supply (such as Dumpsters) make for ideal breeding and hunting grounds for rats. And since these unwanted rodents populate fast (up to 12 pups per litter), animal control is an ongoing issue, but a manageable one.
According to Do Your Own Pest Control, Norway rats and roof rats are the most common breeds in the continental U.S., and to start rodent control, one must inspect the area and find out where the rats are most commonly found, and where they often go. Then, exclusion takes place, or sealing any opening wider than half an inch, so rats have no ingress to the building or home. Construction materials and amateur expertise may be needed. Then, for a smaller rat population, standard rat traps are viable, attracting these unwanted rodents with bait and snapping down on them. Poisoned food pellets, when placed out of children’s and pets’ reach, can work against an invading colony of any size.
Rats can be found anywhere, but squirrels most often are a problem in suburban areas, where trees, bushes, and natural environments are found. Often, squirrels reach a home, often the attic, by means of tree branches that reach the house, so trimming these can reduce squirrel infestation rates. As with rats, sealing any holes or cracks in the house’s material can prevent ingress, and special glue and paint applied to a roof can discourage rats from chewing on it and making holes. For squirrels already in the home, box traps are a good option, according to Terminix, and lethal traps may be preferable since they remove the need to relocate unwanted rodents to a new location far away. However, if an invading squirrel has had the chance to make a nest in the attic and give birth to a litter, the squirrel will be even more reluctant to leave or be lured away, and even if the adult squirrel is disposed of, the infants remain, and they will require professional removal.
Squirrels (and often rats) cause considerable damage if allowed to roam free in a home. The holes that they chew into the roof can cause leaks during rain storms, and squirrels, having a nonstop need to chew things, will nibble on power and phone cables and expose the wires, damaging a home’s utilities. Squirrels and rats also carry ticks that in turn can carry Lyme disease, potentially spreading it to people and pets in the home. Squirrels are also known to carry rabies, a lethal virus transmitted by bites. Preventing disease is a major reason to prevent squirrel invasions in any home.
Done correctly, unwanted rodent removal can keep a household safe and healthy, and keep local pest populations under control.