The HOOT Group is working to reduce the rodent population in Uhills using non-toxic methods. We want our community management to replace the current rat poison stations with enclosed snap traps and barn owl nesting boxes. Additionally, we request that residents stop using rodenticides of any kind.
The HOOT group believes that we should use methods that have maximum impact on reducing the rat population with minimal negative impact on the environment.
Given how often we all see dead, dying, and live rats in UHills, it’s time to evaluate our current approach to rat management. Controlling the rat population is a never-ending battle. Every rat eradication strategy has pros and cons that require careful implementation in order to avoid unintended consequences, such as the poisoning of wildlife and household pets.
While we all wish that there were a single, safe, effective, and inexpensive method to reduce the population of rats in UHills, our best bet is to adaptively employ a combination of strategies. The most important things that residents and ICHA can do to reduce that rat population are to reduce harborage (ex. overgrown vegetation) and eliminate food/water sources.
The HOOT Group would like ICHA to replace rat poison stations with enclosed snap traps, in combination with providing nesting boxes for native barn owls. Owls are one of the best native rodent controlling predators in the region. A family of barn owls can consume over 1,000 rodents per year. Simply installing nesting boxes in optimal locations naturally recruits barn owls. These owls generally mate for life and return to the same nesting site each year. We believe that UHills (ICHA and residents) should stop using rodenticides prior to the installation of nesting boxes. Pest control companies hired by residents generally deploy anticoagulant bait in their traps. Helpful information on the hazards of anticoagulant rodenticides can be found here.
Other neighborhoods have moved away from rodenticides towards natural methods. Here are some other barn owl success stories shared by a variety of groups.
UHills Rodent Management History
ICHA currently uses the rodenticide cholecalciferol (Terad3) in rat bait stations serviced monthly by a pest management company. Multiple feedings of cholecalciferol or vitamin D3 are toxic to rats. Studies have concluded that direct consumption in large enough quantities can be toxic to wildlife, household pets, and humans.
Compared to anticoagulants, cholecalciferol has been touted as a lesser threat to pets and wildlife, however there is limited evidence that secondary poisoning may occur. HOOT suggests that inviting owls to Uhills and exposing them to the possibility of poisoning is not responsible. We therefore propose that ICHA switch to enclosed snap traps and we encourage residents to do the same.
The HOOT Group is working in concert with local raptor experts and others to investigate the feasibility of shifting UHills away from rodenticides toward safer non-toxic methods of rat control.
Non-Toxic Rat Reduction: Snap Traps & Owl Boxes
SNAP TRAPS: Yes, they do what you think. The snap traps that we hope to have UHills employ are enclosed in a box intended to protect pets, wildlife and humans from accidentally triggering the trap. You can buy a box from ICHA now and start using the traps on your property (link to purchase a box is to come).
Yes, there will be a carcass in need of disposal. Not everyone is comfortable with this task. We are in the early stages of establishing an assistance program where a volunteer will clear your catch and re-bait your trap for you.
Of course, the trap boxes on ICHA-maintained property will continue to be tended by an integrated pest management company.
OWL BOXES: The HOOT Group is working with several raptor experts to determine the appropriate location and number of nesting boxes for our specific needs. These boxes will be located in areas accessible for cleaning and repair. Here is an article about a neighborhood that has already installed barn owl boxes.
OTHER ALTERNATIVES: We are looking into a variety of other alternatives to rodenticides to use in concert with snap traps and owls, which include non-hormone fertility control (ContraPest), natural repellents (Pro-Pell) and more.
How Homeowners Can Help
Snap traps and owls are not enough to reduce the rat population. Residents need to make concerted efforts to avoid providing food and shelter to unwanted guests.
- Inspect your yard regularly for signs of rats
- Eliminate entry points
- Guard the garbage
- Harvest fruit as soon as it ripens
- Check out UHills Sustainability Committee’s tips on managing rats (https://uhills.org/pests-and-vermin/)
- Check out OC Vector Control’s website on rat prevention ideas (https://www.ocvector.org/what-you-can-do-to-prevent-rats)
- Check out Raptors are the Solution’s (RATS) website for a wealth of alternatives to rodenticides and learn why raptors are helpful in urban rat control (https://www.raptorsarethesolution.org)
- Set out enclosed mechanical traps and check them regularly
- Use rodenticides (rat poison) of any kind
- Leave food out or let fruit fall build up around trees
- Build up clutter
- Let landscaping get out of control
- Ignore standing water
- Use snap traps in the open
Report Rat Issues
Report suspected pet/wildlife poisonings by emailing Kim Huxman.
VIEW OC Mosquito and Vector Control’s July 2020 ZOOM presentation on rat eradication strategies
WATCH this amazing film.
Take a look at the wonderful film that inspired us to start The HOOT Group:
Pets & Owls Q and A
Will barn owls harm my small dog or cat? No.
Will barn owls be successful hunters in a neighborhood with street lighting? Yes, and here is an article that will shed some “light” on the subject.
Can I have a barn owl nesting box placed in my backyard? The answer is maybe. The HOOT Group is working with local raptor experts to determine the most feasible locations for nesting boxes to be placed throughout UHills. Large trees with plenty of shade are the best sites for nesting boxes to be installed because the boxes heat up too much if they are installed out in the open. Nesting boxes will need to be placed in areas that are accessible for cleaning and repair. For about 8 weeks during the nesting season (February-June in southern California), barn owls make loud screeching sounds and the boxes can be odoriferous. This should be kept in mind when deciding on nesting box placement.
How can I help facilitate the mission of The HOOT Group? The most important thing you can do to ensure success in reducing the rat population in UHills is to rat-proof your home and property. Here is a helpful article from OC Mosquito and Vector Control and here is a link to helpful information from UHills Sustainability Committee.
How can I join The HOOT Group in future decision making? You can contact Kim Huxman by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to get in contact with our group.