Most of us face a difficult problem with rodent control. On one hand, we need to take care of rodent problems before they can become a serious issue, and if a rodent colony has had a chance to grow, then it's even more important to handle it as quickly as possible, but there's another issue to consider. We also want to avoid causing any undue suffering to the rats and mice. At the same time, we also want to ensure that rodent control is exactly that — control of a rodent population. Any rodent control effort needs to focus on rodents while leaving other animals unaffected.
We always want to avoid any unintended damage to the local environment, and this is where one of the larger issues with rodent control comes into the picture. Rat poison is one of the more common methods to control rodent infestations. However, the poison also hits almost every element that we're trying to avoid. Rat poison is painful, hurts the local environment, and can even be carried far beyond the point of infestation.
The Downsides of Rodenticides
Rat poison is technically known as a rodenticide. As the name suggests, these substances are intended to take care of rodent infestations, but their main problem is that rodenticides are seldom specifically limited to rodents. These chemicals instead work on biological mechanisms present in all mammals and birds.
The most commonly used forms of rodenticides are anticoagulants. Many people are familiar with anticoagulants due to their role in cardiovascular medicine. Small doses of anticoagulants are commonly used to improve circulation in humans. When people have a medical issue that causes blood clots an anticoagulant can help rectify the problem. However, it's important to keep in mind that this beneficial effect is only present with a very low dose of anticoagulants.
When anticoagulants are used as a rat poison, the dosage used is far in excess of what we'd see used in humans. The end effect is that a rodent will continue to bleed out from even the smallest cut. Even normally minor cuts in a rodent's stomach will be enough to end its life.
There's a number of issues with the use of anticoagulants. One of the biggest problems stems from the fact that it's not a very pleasant way to go. Most of us want to solve rodent problems without causing undue suffering. Slowly bleeding out over the course of several days doesn't fit into that philosophy.
The other important point can be seen from the fact that anticoagulants work in humans. It's not just a matter of humans and rodents both being affected either. All mammals, and even birds, can be harmed by anticoagulants, and this doesn't just apply to the animal which first comes across the poison.
Consider a situation where a rat consumes an anticoagulant-based rat poison. The rat eventually bleeds out. But a dog might notice the rat and think that he's found a great snack. The dog hasn't just eaten a rat. He's also taken in the rat poison present within it. This can then affect the dog in the exact same way it did the rat. And the problem is made even worse by the fact that animals seldom want to stop with just one meal. Any carnivorous animal will be tempted to eat multiple poisoned rodents. And in doing so they can take in a huge dose of rat poison.
People usually mean well when they deploy rat poison, but the end effect usually escalates far beyond what they wanted. Local animals are usually hurt as well, and birds are often hurt by the poison and can even carry it to fairly distant areas. Of course, this raises an important question. What are the alternatives to rat poison?
Using a Natural Solution
Ultimately, taking care of a rodent problem is a matter of restoring balance to nature. This also points to a possible solution to rodent problems. We can sometimes get a helping hand from other animals. There's a good reason why the forests and plains aren't overrun with rat colonies.
Any given area will be filled with other animals that hunt rodents. Owls and other birds of prey are a natural remedy to any rat problem. Cats can help scare rats, though they're far less likely to actually hunt them down than most people would assume. Some dogs, such as terriers, were even bred to hunt rat colonies. The rat terrier in particular can do a fantastic job of handling rodent problems. Bringing in animals to hunt rodents can often provide a great alternative to rat poison.
We usually think of dry ice as a Halloween accessory, but it's also a quick and easy way to deplete the breathable air within an area. If the rodents are sealed in a small area then dry ice can be used to both anesthetize and kill the rats through CO2 poisoning. Of course, this is a somewhat rare situation. We typically don't know about a rodent colony until they've had a chance to really expand within a larger area, but if they are isolated to a small area with no escape route then dry ice can be a surprisingly quick, easy, and painless alternative to rat poison.
Removing Food Sources
Why do rodents come into our property in the first place? The answer usually comes down to food. We usually surround ourselves with food. Our yards often have gardens full of edible plants. Our cupboards are stocked with all the staples. And even our garbage cans have lots of mouth-watering treats that any rodent would love. But what would happen if we took all that away?
Sometimes just locking down our food stores can prove to be a good alternative to rat poison. Make sure that garbage cans are tightly sealed. Keep food stored in cupboards within strong containers rather than cardboard boxes or plastic bags. And if possible, make sure that gardens don't have any edible plants that could attract rodents. it's not a guarantee that these precautions will make rodent colonies search for new homes, but it never hurts to try this method before moving on to other measures. Safeguarding food will ensure no new rodents are attracted to the area.
So far the alternatives have involved a lot of variables, work, or both, but modern traps are both easy to use and widely applicable to a variety of different situations. This is perhaps best exemplified by the A24 Rat & Mouse Trap. The A24 traps are a mechanical alternative to rat poison which offers a quick-kill solution to rodent problems.
The traps attract rodents through a lure system. When a rodent enters the trap in search of the lure, it's quickly taken care of by a spring-loaded striker. The quick-kill system ensures that the mice are taken care of instantly and without pain. A CO2-powered trap means it doesn't require electricity or proximity to any power source.
The traps offer a safe rodent control system that doesn't pose any risk of poisoning to other animals. Likewise, it avoids the standard problem of birds acting as a vector. A bird can easily ingest a rat that has been poisoned by anticoagulants, and in doing so it can carry those toxins to distant areas, but modern rat traps completely bypass that issue. All of this taken together makes modern rat traps one of the best alternatives to rat poison.