Rat Control in Massachusetts (Podcast)

In this podcast, the team from Safer Nature talks about rats. They explain the differences between rats and mice. Then, they talk about how to get rid of rats and why a professional exterminator is critical when you’re dealing with rats.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Ryan Potts, founder and owner of Safer Nature Pest Control. And Matt Raftery, Manager of Operations, specializing in traditional and organic pest control services in Massachusetts. And today our topic is rat control in Massachusetts. Welcome, Ryan and Matt.

Ryan Potts: Thank you, John. Thank you for having us.

Matt Raftery: Good morning, John. Thanks for having us.

Signs You Have Rats in Your Home

John: Sure. So what are some signs that you might have rats in your home?

Ryan: Yeah, so first and foremost, a lot of times people, they’ll find, say, again, under their sink, in a basement, sometimes even on a second floor. Typically you don’t find rats too high up in Massachusetts. It has happened, but a lot of times it’s a very strong odor. So that’s another thing. If you have a very serious infestation with rats, if you’re not already hearing them, again, a lot of times in New England you have different styles of structures, really old again with additions. A lot of times people will, say in an older home, will tend to only stay in one side of their house, that it’s the newer side.

And with that being said, when people are having our additions put on, especially with an older structure for whatever reason, they don’t line up too well. And that tends to be a very serious problem with points of entry for rats. Rats need water every day, and we find a lot of times they’re either near a water source, whether it be say even like a koi pond or a small little pool that never got taken out.

Matt: Bird baths.

Ryan: Bird baths, yep. And yeah, you’re going to see the droppings. You’re going to get the call for the noises and rats and they’re making a racket.

Differences Between Rats and Mice

John: Do rat droppings look different from mouse droppings? Can you tell the difference?

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, so much. I mean, I don’t know, you’d, I can’t show-

Matt: Significantly larger than a mouse dropping. Okay. It’s very clear when we see… and it’s not, when a lot of times what we’re dealing with is the Norway rat species that’s thriving here in Massachusetts. That’s usually what the target pest is. And rats, to be clear, are not just larger mice.

They have a different disposition and they’re a formidable adversary, especially for a homeowner that’s trying to deal with them themselves. You really have to eliminate the entire population that you’re working with, or they can bounce back in a hurry. Oftentimes, there’s major attractants that we see, very common themes, whether it’s the homeowner or the customer themselves, or adjacent neighbors or someone within proximity to the house, barnyard type animals, especially chickens or geese that are being kept.

Even if it’s just someone as a hobby, their droppings are one of the biggest attractants we see. That’s also true for people with dogs where if they’re allowing their dog to just use their yard, mainly not cleaning up dog droppings can also be a major attractant. A lot of times you see this with a fenced in yard, and it may or may not be our customer, it might be someone in the immediate adjacent area that’s a big attractant. Once they get set up, they’re really hard to get rid of. You’re usually better off calling the professionals like us.

Rats in Suburbs and Rural Areas

John: We think of rats generally as being a problem in a city. I always think of New York City or something like that, when I think of rats. Are they also a problem in the suburbs or even in rural areas?

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, honestly, we see it time and time again. Just like Matt was saying, with drop dog droppings, I mean, it’s one of their favorite things to eat and it sounds crazy, but honest to God, we run into it time and time again. Whether it’s not a neighboring chicken coop, it’s, I’d have to say, yeah, 85% of the time it’s dog droppings, especially in the wintertime.

That’s why there’s an uptick of activity. That’s a very, very viable food source, and believe me, they love it. So if you have one immediate customer, you have five or six other people in the neighborhood that have dogs. Doesn’t have to be right next door. It can be three houses down that say that one person, they haven’t cleaned up their dog droppings because there’s snow on the ground, and they just don’t even think about it because it keeps snowing and it gets covered.

Believe it or not, the rats are all over that and it’s bringing more and more rats. I mean, they breed multiply rapidly, I mean at an alarming rate, and they’re very, very resilient, very smart species. Neophobic, that means anything new in their environment. You’ve got to be very, very careful. You just can’t put, so if a homeowner goes at Home Depot and thinks they’re going to put out some rodenticide, which I would never, ever, ever advise to do, just because a lot of times you find at Home Depot, those rodenticides can be much more dangerous to any animals or the wildlife instant-kill products. Yeah. It’s crazy that homeowners can just go to Home Depot and buy those.

Rats Are Opportunistic Omnivores

Matt: And as far as, yes, safety regarding non-target pests, a lot of those over the counter products just aren’t safe enough and anything that comes by can get into them. Again, back just to the nature of what a rat is, rats are not herbivores, they’re opportunistic omnivores. They will absolutely cannibalize each other if given the situation, anything smaller than them can become a meal. A lot of times you see both rats and mice, and then the mouse population starts dwindling, or if not completely eliminated. That’s because rats don’t tolerate competition for resources, and look at mice as if they’re food, they’re on the menu.

They’re highly opportunistic scavengers. So a lot of times you associate them with urban areas because coming in and out of dumpsters, being in city sewer systems, all of that’s true. They also live in the wild. They live in the woods, they live in meadows, fields, they’re everywhere. Once they get attracted to an area, there is no effective way to, I guess you would say ward them off. They have to be eliminated. You’re not going to relocate them. Really, the only way to do it is complete elimination of the population in the immediate area that you’re dealing with.

Why You Need Professional Help for Rat Extermination

Ryan: Yeah, okay. And then you have homeowners that, again, everybody wants to do the right thing and maybe have a hard trap. I’ve seen customers set up hard traps to catch rats, and the next thing you know, they face the risk of being bit, I mean, rats, you know, you corner a rat, I mean, they can jump up to six feet high. That’s the last thing you would ever want to do. Sure. You get it. I don’t ever advise anybody using, obviously a high trap to catch rats, and we’ve seen people do that, and next thing we get the call and we have to remove them.

It’s too much to deal with. You got to call a professional. We’re going to identify, obviously the food source and points of entry around that structure. A lot of times with the rats, I mean, rats can even chew through multiple things. Even concrete. I mean, it’s impressive. They’re highly adaptable, intelligent species, and unless you hire a well-trained, versed professional, you are not going to be able to eliminate that population.

The Dangers of Rats in Your Home

John: Are rats in the home dangerous, and are they more than dangerous than mice?

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, just the-

Matt: Yeah, the damage that they’re going to do is going to be a lot more significant just due to their size and their tenacity. And that’s everything from potentially a fire risk, from chewing on wires. They’re going to do that kind of damage in a hurry. Flood, we’ve seen them to get to a water source, they can chew through PEX, PVC, no problem. Next thing you know your basement’s filling up because they’ve chewed through a water line.

I’ve even seen that on the laundry fill, where on someone’s washer, they’ve chewed through a dishwasher. We had a customer recently, they just chewed through the dishwasher line. The rats are, they’re going to need your immediate attention. And it’s generally, that’s the call where some people will tolerate having mice. They say, oh, there’s only a couple. That’s usually never true. But the rat factor usually generates a call to an exterminator pretty quick.

Ryan: Yeah. Typically, if somebody’s seeing, they call, oh, we saw maybe two to three rats in our backyard. It’s in reality that’s more like 15 to 20, to be completely honest with you. And even if they’re not seeing burrows immediately around the area, that’s one thing to clearly look for is burrowing of rats. They’ll go into spaces if there’s a large enough opening around that structure.

Again, older homes in New England, we find time to time again at fieldstone foundation, they’re going to make that, no problem at all. And we go around that structure again, fine tooth comb, we’re going around, we’re going to identify those points of entry. We can see just by the way they’re trailing. Clearly the trained eye we have here is identifying those as we do it day in and day out every day here, really, you could see again, they’ll leave a grease mark from their skin.

Rats absolutely will chew, and then it’s very visible. You can see that, again, with say that most recently with that one customer talking about with the breakthrough, the dishwasher, I mean, right through the PVC pipe, but we have, I wish I could show you pictures of it. It’s pretty cool. Anyways, no problem at all. I mean, that’s easy. That’s easy chewing for them to get through. Again, this person, they had a dog that the droppings weren’t an issue. They have horses, they have a horse pen right near their house. Again, they absolutely love horse droppings, as well.

What Attracts Rats to Your Home?

Matt: A farm like, yeah, rats and farms, chickens and rats. They always go hand in hand. But it’s not that, we’ve also had people in suburban areas, bird feeders, we recommend pull those down at the first sighting of a rat because that is a big attractant, go with a hummingbird feeder, but any bird seed that hits the ground is going to attract nuisance wildlife, and once you get rats, you got to pull those down. As far as exclusion, a rat is a different animal, as we’ve discussed, it’s not just a big mouse. So some of our techniques and methods and materials that work fine for stuffing holes from mice entry points, that’s not necessarily going to work for a rat.

And we usually don’t do it because rats can go through, chew through brand new drywall in a matter of hours. We’ve seen that they can rip out our exclusion materials. There’s usually no shortcut for doing, you’re going to need either masonry or a carpentry repair work to build that, again, solid. To keep rats out. There isn’t really a stuffing fix where you can stop them from coming in. It’s usually going to have to be actual real repair work using the appropriate materials to where they’ve chewed through.

Ryan: Full on repointing of that foundation. That’s 90% of what we see. Recommend a mason, like you said, in any kind of carpentry. But the key is to get rid of that current population, and that’s most certainly what we can do, and then advise and educate the customer on how to avoid future rat entry and issues with rats.

Contact Safer Nature to Get Help Dealing With Rats

John: All right. Well, that’s really great information, Brian and Matt, thanks again for speaking with me today.

Ryan: Thank you, John.

John: Thank you, guys.

Matt: Thanks, John.

John: And for more information, visit the Safer Nature website at safernature.com, or call 9-7-8 3-2-5 1-3-2-5.