Finding Stubbs: A Rat Tail (Part One)

About a year ago, I wrote an article about the rodents who share the Snoqualmie Valley with us. I reminisced about the times we had to battle rats, saying I would “…keep trying to keep them outside and safe where they should be.”

Well Melissa you failed miserably.

I failed three ways. 1) Keeping them outside where they should be. 2) Keeping them safe, and 3) Being an idiot who thought she could stay one step ahead of the Rattus Norvegicus, also known as the common rat, street rat, sewer rat, wharf rat, Hanover rat, Norway rat, Norwegian rat and Parisian rat.

I used to feed birds, used to. I thought I was careful. I would put out exceedingly small amounts midday when I could watch and photograph the birds who would swoop in for a bite. I always used no-mess blends to minimize leftover shells that might attract other critters and stopped feeding completely when bear season was nigh.

On October 13, 2020, I caught these two on camera munching. “Kind of cute,” I thought before going out to shoo them away. Little did I know that was the first day of a 174-day nightmare.

And NO, I’m not being dramatic.

Shortly after, we started seeing signs that one, or more, of that duo, had made their way into our house. Footprints on the stovetop, rat poop near the trash and one night, one scurried across the floor in front of me only to disappear under the refrigerator.

But where were they coming from? After our last rat attack, my better half Mark had done his due diligence and sealed the foundation perimeter of the house with cement board, and I personally had stuffed every crack and crevice with steel wool.

Two weeks later, October 28th, we had our rather shocking answer to how they had gained access to our home. The furry &*(%$@#’s chewed their way up from under the deck, slipped under a section of siding where they chewed through the drywall and pushed out the indoor trim around the sliding door. The damage was epic.

Still, we thought, “Good, now we know how they got in. No more can come in. All we have to do is trap who is already in here.”

My present-day self laughs in derision at the innocent I was 159 days ago!

“The brown rat can breed throughout the year if conditions are suitable, with a female producing up to five litters a year. The gestation period is only 21 days, and litters can number up to 14, although seven is common. They reach sexual maturity in about five weeks. Under ideal conditions (for the rat), this means that the population of females could increase by a factor of three and a half (half a litter of 7) in 8 weeks (5 weeks for sexual maturity and 3 weeks of gestation), corresponding to a population growing by a factor of 10 in just 15 weeks. As a result, the population can grow from 2 to 15,000 in a year.[34] The maximum life span is three years, although most barely manage one. A yearly mortality rate of 95% is estimated, with predators and interspecies conflict as major causes”[1]

I read the above when I wrote my last article, but somehow it didn’t sink in. We started the grisly task of murdering our now warm and cozy population of rats. Once out of desperation, I called a few pest control companies for information and help.

They all wanted to use poisoned bait and seemed shocked when I said no. I said well if there is a bait box where they go in, eat the bait, and stay in, I’d consider it….”no it doesn’t work like that,” they say.  Well why? And second, they all want to spray outside for spiders as an extra service. Why would I want to kill spiders outside?

By this time, we had several Blink cameras set up to figure out how many they were and where they were hiding. I saw three and four at a time, and they seemed to be concentrated on the first floor, where they used under the refrigerator as either a hiding place or a pathway to the walls or crawlspace.

Mark pulled out our commercial double-doored stainless-steel refrigerator to find these beasts had chewed holes in the Pex piping that carried water to our bathroom above. The subfloor was now rotting, and the VERY heavy refrigerator was in danger of falling into the crawl space below, taking who knows how much of our home with it.

Between October 13 and December 13th, we killed a total of 13 rats. Some in snap traps and a couple in electronic traps. What we didn’t know is we were now up against the king of all rats. This rat had almost been snared by a snap trap but had managed to free himself, leaving half his tail in the trap. We dubbed him Stubbs and spent the next 112 days trying to rid ourselves of our lone rat.

Has Stubbs been found? Did Melissa move out or club him with chewed-off water pipe? Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion of Stubb’s Rat Tail


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_rat

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