Enough is enough

Attila Soos

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This is the time for me to vent my anger.

I've seen a few posts recently, complaining about backyard pests. They have to do mostly with the evil squirrels.

I have my share of them, and the annoyance of putting up with their digging. But they are nothing like the damage caused by roof rats. This morning, I've found one of my favorite twin-trunk plum (prunus) bonsai half mutilated and almost completely defoliated. I don't mind getting help with defoliating my trees from time to time, but I prefer to do it on my own terms.

Until now, I tried to be very humane abut limiting their numbers: used glue traps, and then releasing them at the trailhead. Then I got live traps, and did catch-and-release (release in the "wild, of course). Lately, my live traps turn out empty every morning (rats operate in the early hours of dawn, and during night time), like this morning. They have not touched the walnut in the live trap a few feet away, but managed to ruin my plum.

So, I've decided that this is it, no more nice guy, all gloves are off. I've just ordered a dozen of these

http://www.domyownpestcontrol.com/trapper-trex-rat-trap-p-95.html

I will place one at every step, every stand, every corner, and I am going on a killing spree. This is war, and I guarantee that THERE WILL BE BLOOD ! ( http://www.moviegoods.com/movie_item.asp?path=/Assets/product_images/1020/&file=404139.1020.A.jpg )

The most important thing is to keep this secret from my 5 year-old son. He would be crushed if he found out that I am killing wildlife (after raising him with in the spirit of love and respect for all living creatures). Am I a hipocrit or what?

That's it, I am relieved now. The traps are arriving in three days. No one can say that I haven't tried to be nice to them..but nothing worked.

Take care my friends..
 
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Bill S

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Risking getting a cap in me arse from one of the enthusiasts on these sites but I'm Feeling your pain Atilla, as to Hipocrit, I don't think so, keep in mind a trillion or so of it's relatives will still be here years after we men are but dust in the wind.
 

pjkatich

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Attila,

There comes a time in every bonsai enthusiats journey when turning the other "branch" is not an acceptable option. I have and still do take drastic measures to control the vermin population in my yard when the situation calls for it. The subject of keeping vermin at bay is not something that's covered in your typical bonsai book.

Those are mean looking traps and should be very effective. You mentioned you have a 5 year old, these traps will be hard to keep out of sight if he is permitted to wander alone through your collection.

Good luck and good hunting.

Paul
 

Bob

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For a nominal fee I can lead (more like drive) them away by playing my flute!

On the other hand, a cat is my choice of weaponry!
 

Attila Soos

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Thanks guys, I already feel a little better about this.

It's a choice I have to make: either I do whatever I need to, in order to protect the trees, or I have to give up bonsai. There is no in-between. One can know all about the fancy techniques, graft branches to the right places, and plan all year around, working for decades on a tree. Then a little rat comes around, and trash everything you did on the tree for the last ten years, so that you can start over. Now wait a minute you #$$^....!!

The plan is to put the traps out in the evening, and collect them in the morning. This is the good thing about the rats being nocturnal.
I would not leave them armed during the day anyway, because by the afternoon when I come home, they would be catching blue jays, finches, sparrows, and everything else in sight. So, they woudn't be out there during the day for my boy to see.
 

Attila Soos

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For a nominal fee I can lead (more like drive) them away by playing my flute!

On the other hand, a cat is my choice of weaponry!

A cat would be a great addition to security, if I didn't already have a dog. And he doesn't mix with cats very well. Smokey loves to track down rats and squirrels, but is useless during the night, when he sleeps most of the time.
 

Bonsai Nut

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I hear ya Attila;

Unless someone has lived in Southern California, it is hard to understand roof rats. We're not talking about cute little house mice here - these are RATS. About a year ago I heard rats in the rafters over one of our rooms on the main floor, so I went around and sealed every possible access point on the exterior of the house, including placing heavy metal roof vents over the dryer openings, heavy flashing and expanding foam insulation around the air conditioning lines, etc. I corrected the rat access problem, but apparently trapped a rat in the house, where it proceeded to die in the ceiling of one of our bathrooms. I had to cut an access hole in an adjacent closet and crawl into the roofline crawl space, where I found a rat condominium where rats had been living for years. I had to remove ALL the insulation, get up there with a shop vac, remove a very dead (and large) rat, clean off the rafters with strong anti-bacterial scrub, and then reinsulate the whole space. If you could have seen the mess they made in my roof, you wouldn't have any questions about reducing their population - the term "disease vector" clearly comes to mind. I have trapped them in my pool heater, in my utility closet, and by my securely closed garbage cans. I don't think I can eliminate them from around our house, just keep them in check.

Rats stink (literally and figuratively). I rate them slightly behind mosquitos in the list of critters I think the world would be better without.
 

waltr1

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I feel for you but enough is enough. Without the predators that used to be around these varmints do need to be controlled. Do you know there is bubonic plague in spots of the California Sierras carried by rats? It surprised me when I came across a warning sign on a hiking trail.

I keep mouse traps set in the garage and the house at all times because once you see one there normally is many more than one. Traps are the best method in my opinion because 1- you know when one is caught and that there may be more 2- Using poison can kill critters that you do want (cats, fox and the few other predators that are still around.

Good luck
 

imholte

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For your live traps you might try a better bait, I know peanut butter works great, also grain/wheat. Be sure to put peanut butter on the trip plate of the traps for maximum attraction. Also if you catch a rat in one trap smear the rat on the other traps for the scent of the rat attracts the others too.
 

onlyrey

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Squirrel solution?

Attila,

As a last resource try spreading organic fertilizer evenly on the whole surface of your bonsai's soil. I think it worked for me. I used one of those over the counter organic fertilizers that had a smell close to the real thing. Probably my squirrel was a clean one and didn't like the smell; but you might get lucky too:)

Update: Sorry, thought this was just about the squirrels. Yeah, get some good traps and get rid of the rats.
 
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As a lifelong archer, I keep my eye sharp with the tree rats, rabbits, and other varmints that become a nuisance to yard, landscape, and bonsai. I had to stop burying them in the garden because guests would comment that the tomatoes taste like rabbit. ;)

I use a self designed "spanking" tip and give a good educating whack first. The tree rat and rabbit sized pests that don't learn easily eventually get the "Judo" tip, while the possums, coons, and ground hogs get the thunderbolt 125 grain broadheads.
 

Glider

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The most important thing is to keep this secret from my 5 year-old son. He would be crushed if he found out that I am killing wildlife (after raising him with in the spirit of love and respect for all living creatures). Am I a hipocrit or what?
No, you're not a hypocrite. I just think you're crossing the threshold from 'loving wildlife' to 'understanding wildlife'.

My sister and I both love animals, she in the 'Disney' (anthropomorphic 'fluffy bunnies) sense and I in the 'have some actual grasp of reality' sense. She wants to cuddle it all, I respect it for what it is, because I put the effort in to learn about it and so, although I love wildlife, it is not in a sentimental way.

We have a massive problem with American Grey squirrels here. My garden is only about 8m x 4m, but it used to be visited regularly (morning and evening) by over 20 of them (not all at the same time though). My sister thinks they're lovely and cute and would be quite happy to be knee deep in them. However, I understand that as an imported and invasive species, they are out of balance with the environment and have become huge pests; they carry the squirrel pox virus, lethal to our native reds, they do a huge amount of damage, both to cultivated areas and to birdlife, not to mention the damage to structures once they find a way in.

They build their dreys in the local (small) area of woods down the road from here and through constant exposure, have lost their fear of people (but are not tame, that's a different thing). In the summer, people love to visit these woods and hand-feed the squirrels. As a result of this extra food source (very rich, high protein stuff like peanuts and sultanas etc.), the population grows larger than these small woods can support. Consequently, when people stop visiting in the winter, the overblown population is forced to disperse into the local residential area to find food.

The same people who spend the summer stuffing them with peanuts are then surprised and dismayed that these cute, furry 'pets' could be so ungrateful as to dig up all their bulbs and containers and devastate their gardens and bird nest-boxes and so-on.

I don't hate squirrels. They are only doing what squirrels do, but the sheer number of them due to this artifical and inconsistent food source means that the woods, people's gardens (my trees) and the local birdlife take a hell of pounding in winter and early spring. I got an air rifle of the proper spec. and I shoot them. I don't enjoy it (in fact I dislike it) and I wouldn't go hunting, but my choice was take action or give up bonsai.

I investigated other means first. I found that live trapping was considered the most effective intervention. However, the caveat was that if I trapped a grey squirrel and then released it anywhere outside of my garden, I would have committed an offence. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, if a grey squirrel is caught - for any reason - it is illegal to release it into the wild or allow it to escape into the wild. In my view, that left me little choice. I've shot around 25 as of last year (each was a clean single shot). I haven't seen any around the garden this year so far, and I hope I don't. I don't want to have to shoot any more, but I will if I have to.

My sister thinks I'm a "wrong 'un", but that's her sentamentally biased veiw. For example, she also loves birds, but can't make the cognitive link between areas of increased grey squirrel numbers and the reduction in bird numbers in those areas. In her mind, anything that cute can do no wrong. That, in my opinion, is a view harmful to wildlife in general.

So no, I don't think you are a hypocrite at all. I think it would be valuable for your son to learn the reality of environmental issues (so he doesn't grow up with a complete non-understanding, like my sister), and that the key to a healthy ecosystem, and wildlife therein, is balance. Where humans put things out of balance (e.g. by increasing populations through artificial and inconsistent means, or introducing alien species, or by providing nesting and breeding environments to pest species, albeit unintentionally), other species suffer. The rats you have a problem with will quite happily take the young of mice and voles, some of which are already endagered (at least, in this country) and even young nestling birds, if they can reach them.

It sounds like the rats in your area are getting out of balance with the local environment. You are benefitting it by helping to maintain a balance. You are at no risk of endagering the overall rat population at all.
 
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meushi

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Glider,

two words for you: pine marten

I had a tree rat problem when I was living in Luxembourg City, the problem solved itself when a young pine marten moved in my garden. I traded a bit of noise at night for piece of mind, I didn't see a single tree rat in the garden after that.

Michael
 

rlist

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Growing up in the Bay Area, we had lots of rats as well. My pops used to poison them, and every now and then one one die in the walls or rafters and it was work to get them out as the Nut mentioned.

I don't know if a cat would do it though - we had 2 cats growing up and they never went up into the roof after them. I suggest just leaving a critter up there that likes the dark and heat, is silent and you'll never have to feed...
 

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Glider

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Glider,

two words for you: pine marten

I had a tree rat problem when I was living in Luxembourg City, the problem solved itself when a young pine marten moved in my garden. I traded a bit of noise at night for piece of mind, I didn't see a single tree rat in the garden after that.

Michael
That would be nice. A natural predator/prey balance is always the best. Unfortunately, Pine Martens aren't native to the UK either. We have weasels, stoats and ferrets, but not in North London. I have two cats, but these squirrels aren't afraid of cats. There have been cats around here that have been mobbed by squirrels (took some nasty bites too!).
 
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meushi

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That would be nice. A natural predator/prey balance is always the best. Unfortunately, Pine Martens aren't native to the UK either. We have weasels, stoats and ferrets, but not in North London. I have two cats, but these squirrels aren't afraid of cats. There have been cats around here that have been mobbed by squirrels (took some nasty bites too!).

Weasel and ferret would work as well. The only advantage of the pine marten is the retractable claws which allows them to hunt the squirrel up the trees as well ;)

They are actually listed on the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the Environmental Protection Act in the UK.
 

Pete-Regina

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Call me crazy for suggesting this....

...Shishi-Odishi...

Nobody dies, and you get to be kept up at night by the pleasant clunking. Plus, if the rats don`t get scared from the plonk, they might drown in the water container...

Actually I share your rage. Right now the city is infested with canker worms, which have successfully defoliated almost every tree around. They march like a massive plague. When they started making yumyum eyes on my Wisteria, I lost it. My neighbours know me now as the crazy bald bonsai nut who hucks caterpillars into the lawn.

I share your pain. :p
 

Glider

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They are actually listed on the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the Environmental Protection Act in the UK.
You're right, my mistake. I looked at a distribution map for pine martens and it didn't include Britain. However, it turns out they're making a comeback "The pine marten - declared extinct in England a decade ago - is making a comeback in North Yorkshire, wildlife experts believe." (BBC News. 26/10/2004). Nobody tells me anything! :rolleyes:
 
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susieq14114

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I love animals as much as the next person but nothing can bring out the blood lust in me like finding one of my trees (that I have invested YEARS of my life into) ripped out of it's pot and laying bare roots on the shelf...... Ok, so now I wire the trees into the pot but I still suffered through digging and destruction in the bonsai. All's fair when defending your bonsai. I cannot even tell you how many hundreds of squirrels I have shot over the last 25 years. I generally leave them alone until I find damage in the bonsai area. Then it's time to thin the population out a bit. When the damage stops, I stop shooting. These days it's rare for me to have to resort to that more than once every 3years.

For those of you who live in an area where you cannot even shoot a pellet gun because of neighbors, a well placed rat trap bated with peanut butter works wonders and the neighbors will never know. An old bonsai buddy of mine used to do this. He would go out after sundown and empty the traps and re set them.
 

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