Our Mission

The HOOT Group’s mission is to reduce the rodent population in University Hills using ecologically sound sustainable integrated pest management (IPM) practices.

This includes the following:

  • remove poison bait boxes and replace with enclosed snap traps
  • attract owls to our community by installing a series of nesting boxes
  • reduce harborage areas (remove dense ground covers such as ivy and thickly matted shrubs like bougainvillea), and replace with low water use natives
  • remove food sources for rodents
        • replace open trash containers with wildlife proof ones
        • encourage ICHA and residents to harvest fruits and nuts as they ripen
  • educate through community gatherings, email communications and web page content
  • encourage ICHA and Uhills residents to work together on creating a resilient community with shared values and actions surrounding rodent management

View tips on rat management here

One of the three nesting boxes that have been installed in UHills.

One of the three nesting boxes that have been installed in UHills.



























A huge thank you to skilled craftsmen Scott Rychnovsky and Dan Gillen for building 8 barn owl nesting boxes for UHills!

Thanks to the HRB for funding this important project!
Our goal is to have the boxes installed before the spring 2021 nesting season. Before we can install the nesting boxes, we need to make sure that UHills households are free of rodenticides (poison).  

Take the Pledge

Our household will not use rodenticides of any kind. We will do our best to reduce harborage and eliminate outdoor food and water sources that are attractive to rodents. If we choose to use snap traps for rodent control, we pledge to use enclosed traps so that we avoid harming other wildlife. 

To agree to the pledge please email Kim Huxman at huxman@hotmail.com with your name, address, and statement that you agree to the HOOT Group Pledge.  If you would like a yard sign (below) indicating that you support the efforts of The HOOT Group please let Kim know and she will order one for you. Yard signs will cost $10 each.

The Issue

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.

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.



  • 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 suspected pet/wildlife poisonings by emailing Kim Huxman.
  • VIEW OC Mosquito and Vector Control’s July 2020 ZOOM presentation on rat eradication strategies
  • Take a look at the wonderful film that inspired us to start The HOOT Group.
  • VIEW a video transcript of the August 30 Zoom meeting with Raptors Are the Solution.

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 huxman@hotmail.com to get in contact with our group.

Photo by Sandrine Biziaux

Hover Box Element

Hover Box Element

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