Small rodent in back yard - on walls

publickmanMay 30, 2013

Yesterday around 8:00 PM I was sitting my my pergola/gazebo (I put a redwood roof on it, and so I'm not sure it is still a pergola), and I noticed what looked like mice or kangaroo rats climbing on the fig vine growing on the wall between my house and the neighbor's (see photo below). They stayed in a group of four and walked along the vines near the top of the wall and did not seem interested in getting close to the ground. I've never seen them anywhere except in the vine, and the seem to have a humped back when walking. It was hard to see what color they were because they stayed deep in the foliage, but they seemed very slightly larger than regular mice.

What do you think they are? Should I do something to get rid of them? I also have alligator lizards in these vines, but I like the lizards and do not like the rodents. The neighbors have dogs, but I don't think that is enough to control the rodents. Is there a possibility that they will have a population explosion? Right now there are very few of them, and they seem to be active only in the evening and at night.


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gyr_falcon(Sunset 23 USDA 9)

Those flowers are too distracting for my eyes to see any rodents. :-)

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 5:35PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

I can't see past your spectacular orchid cactus. I wish mine would bloom like that.

They sound like baby rats. They are quite cute at this time of year, but they will ugly up in no time. I don't mind them much because they eat ALL of my snails- I have been escargot-free since the roof rats moved in.


    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 6:41PM
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wcgypsy(10 / Sunset 23)

Looks like epiphyllum 'Pegasus' rats......

I don't mind the rats either, we likewise have no snails, though I do find their empty shells.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 7:11PM
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Sorry for the flower distraction - that was the only picture on this computer that showed the wall in question!

I thought the rodents might be Peromyscus californicus because they like to climb on the vines, but then rats are great climbers also. I hope they are not baby rats - they did appear to be adult animals. I have seen a grown rat walking on a power line in my back yard late at night (after midnight), but I've never seen a rat on the ground in my yard.

I did have an overabundance of orchid cactus this year, but unfortunately they are all about the same colors, and so I went to Rainbow Gardens in Vista to get some cuttings of different colors. I should have some good variety in a couple of years. The one in the picture is getting so large that I need to find a new place for it or start hacking at it.

The friend who helps me with landscaping once a year will be here in early October, and maybe he can identify them, but I doubt he will be any good with getting rid of them - they do not seem to bother him. I would get a cat, but I am allergic, and I would not want the cat to catch the alligator lizards. Maybe these rodents will also eat snails and slugs - I have more slugs than snails.


    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 7:14PM
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SusanC(9b/10a Sunset 17)

Based on your description, I think you may have roof rats. I had them in my garden several months ago; they were suddenly attracted by a platform bird feeder that I've had in that spot for at least a decade. I took the feeder down, and they disappeared. -Here's a link re: roof rats and control.

Roof Rats

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 10:09PM
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I sat outside in the pergola again yesterday evening around 7:00 PM and saw one in light clear enough for me to see it well, and it did look like a baby rat, but it fits the description of a roof rat perfectly.

Susan, thanks for the link - I cannot open it here at work but will check it out when I get home. Maybe it is roof rats, and I hope they will leave! I had a bird feeder with seeds out for a short time, but it only attracted sparrows and chickadees, and they threw more seeds on the ground than they ate, and so I took it down. The reason I put it up in the first place was that I had leftover finch food from when I had an aviary in Venice.

I found another site that recommends setting traps for roof rats, much like the wooden mouse traps. I think I will try to do that this week-end.

Thanks for your help!


Here is a link that might be useful: More on roof rats

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 12:08PM
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zeuspaul(9b SoCal)

setting traps for roof rats, much like the wooden mouse traps. I think I will try to do that this week-end.

Watch out for unintended consequences. It's easy to catch a bird or other in one of those mouse or rat traps.


    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 6:09PM
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I think I can find parts of the vine where the birds do not like to go - they tend to stay away from the pergola (except for hummingbirds), and I can put a trap where I've seen the rats walking. The rats might be scaring the birds away. The birds mostly go to the other end of the yard where I have the fountains and birdbath. I'm more concerned about accidentally catching lizards - photo from opposite wall:


    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 7:49PM
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wcgypsy(10 / Sunset 23)

Whoa! Those are cool. We have lizards, but none like those...perhaps those are alligator lizards and more brightly colored than the ones we have here....?

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 7:51PM
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zeuspaul(9b SoCal)

I'm more concerned about accidentally catching lizards

Lizards are a problem too. It broke my heart when a rat trap baited with cheese got a large granite spiney lizarrd.

We have a friendly bird that has outsmarted me twice. I think it is a California towhee. I placed a rat trap inside a Have a Heart trap and the bird navigated into the cage to find the rat trap. Also once into a milk crate to find the rat trap.

Now I am trapping mice with traps inside a 4 in pvc pipe blocked on one end with a coffee can and a rock covering 75 percent of the other end. I have caught a dozen mice and no birds.

Mice and rat traps work great in a garage but when placed outdoors you have to be very careful to avoid catching critters you want to leave alone.

If I am after rats outdoors I use the Have a Heart trap. You can see what you have before you deal with it. I try for rats but sometimes I get birds. Just let the birds go. Mice are a problem because they don't set off the Have a Heart trap. So I use the mouse trap in the difficult to navigate pvc pipe.


    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 10:17PM
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napapen(ca 15)

I was thinking of roof rats too. They can easily climb my stucco house walls. They are agile also. However on the traps, put some bait in a box with the traps so you do not kill birds, lizards etc. My husband sat a rat trap once and caught a beautiful bird.


    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 8:26PM
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Definitely roof rats or maybe wood rats. However, trapping them is unlikely to have any permanent effect - they will just keep coming back. Controlling their source of food and water is a better long term plan.

To keep them out of your house, trim vines away from the house, check for entry holes and block with metal mesh, etc. Look at this link for tips on controlling them.

"Rodent-proofing your home
Repair or replace damaged ventilation screen around the foundation and under the eaves.
Provide a tight-fitting cover for the crawl space.
Seal all openings around pipes, cables, and wires that enter through walls or the foundation.
Be sure all windows that can be opened are screened and that the screens are in good condition.
Cover all chimneys with a spark arrester.
Make sure internal screens on roof and attic air vents are in good repair.
Cover rooftop plumbing vent pipes in excess of 2 inches in diameter with screens over their tops.
Make sure all exterior doors are tight fitting and weatherproofed at the bottom."

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 9:37PM
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I put up an electronic (battery operated) rat trap yesterday nestled in the vines where I saw the rats, but so far they have not touched it, but then I haven't seen them again either. If I get no action in one week, I will remove the trap. The package said it was for indoor use only, but since it is dry now, I thought it would be okay outside in the protected area.

Tinan, I will take your advice (I printed it out for my brother) and make sure that our house has no openings for critters. We already have the necessary equipment and screens to do it, but we just have to dedicate the time. The main problem area now is where the dryer vent exits the house. There is also a crawl space that is covered but probably not covered properly. At one time I thought I heard something gnawing under my bathroom, but I later found out that it was the wind blowing the cover on the circuit breaker box. I still need to fix that so that it does not make noise.


    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 7:42PM
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Yup they are relatively harmless living outside in the vines but if they get into your house you will be driven insane by nocturnal gnawing and scratching noises - and they are much harder to get rid of than to prevent.

A friend of mine had some rats in the wall of her apartment, her landlord poisoned them and they died in the walls. Her apartment stank for weeks of rotting corpses, and then there was a plague of flies as the maggots hatched out of the dead rats in the walls. She had to stay in a hotel for a few weeks until the whole mess was cleaned up. The only reason she went back at all was because her rent is about half of the market price in this area!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 3:40PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

"Yup they are relatively harmless living outside in the vines"

Roof rats carry disease and are very destructive. They can eat all the insulation off the wires under the hood of your car, in your barbeque, damage furniture (stored in the garage, in your house or patio furniture), eat your fruits, damage the bark on trees, and generally create a huge mess of your attic. I would not categorize them in the "harmless" category. If I set snap-traps out, I make sure they're in an area where I would not catch a bird or possibly a lizard. I made the mistake of placing one too close to my bird feeders, and caught a lovely California Towhee, and that bird lost its leg. I was just sick about it. He is still here in my garden and doing well, thankfully, but he's at a grave disadvantage now to predators because of my poor placement choice. I now use rat bait traps that the birds cannot get into for the majority of my trapping of rodents. If I had a rat infestation as described by tinan, I would not be using bait traps or doing anything on a "do it yourself" basis, but would have insisted on a professional exterminator. That must have been a terrible infestation. All the perimeter of my home, including under the eaves so rats cannot enter my house or attic, but that doesn't stop them from cruising through my yard. We have a fair issue with them where I live, as we're on the edge of rural, open lands, and I back a large unmanaged and abandoned orange orchard, where root (i.e. citrus) rats love to live, so we battle them constantly in our development, along with many other rodents.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 8:51PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

How To Trap a Rat
Several Victor wooden rat traps
Bacon or ham
Fishing line

Observe the rats at dusk. Note their regular paths through your yard.

WITHOUT SETTING THE TRAPS, set them perpendicular to the rat path, preferably up against a wall on the ground or in a protected spot where other animals are unlikely to spring them later. Leave the traps unset for two days and do nothing. Rats are very wary (their lives depend upon it) so they will avoid anything new, and leaving the traps there makes them familiar and non-scary.

Third afternoon: set a piece of bacon or ham on the trap but DO NOT SET IT.

The next morning, check to see if the bacon is gone, and if it is put more bacon there, and if it is still there just leave it.

If the bacon is gone again, bait the trap and tie the bacon to the trigger with fishing line. Set the trap. Put it out in the afternoon just before rats get active.

BAM! You should have your rat within an hour or two, and you can remove the trap so nothing else gets injured.

Renee, Master Rat and Gopher Trapper

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 1:52AM
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Something set off the trap yesterday because the green light was flashing, but the trap was empty; i.e. no rat and no bait left. So I removed the trap. I think perhaps it will not work because it was suspended in the vines, and it may require weight pressing on it to electrocute the rat.

I'll try Renee's method next, although I do not think we have that many rats. DB thinks that we can never rid the yard of rats and that they will just keep coming back, but I still feel that we can make a dent. The place where I put the trap is not a place where birds go, although lizards do, and so I hope they do not like the same bait.


    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 11:42AM
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I said *relatively* harmless. Because, in fact they are *relatively* harmless when living outside. It's when they move into your house that the risk of disease etc is higher in addition to the annoyance of noise and destruction to your home.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2013 at 12:35AM
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To avoid catching birds put a small cardboard box over the trap with a two inch diameter hole cut out of the base.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2013 at 10:38AM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Tinan, I would say your definition of "harm" and mine are different. Having all the insulation eaten off your car's engine wires, sitting outside in your driveway, causing a $1,200 repair bill not *relatively* harmless. I respectfully disagree with your observation. My neighbor and his brand new Jag were not happy, nor did they consider the roof rats responsible for that damage *relatively* harmless. Roof rats have also destroyed several of my fruit trees by girdling them (now have chicken wire around trunks), as well as eaten large amounts of my citrus at my expense. Of course risk of disease will be higher if rats invade your home, garage or storage sheds, but they are still not *relatively* harmless even outside. As Renee has provided for us, careful trapping can keep the population down, and reduce damage and harm to both yourself and your property. I have successfully trapped and poisoned the rats to the point of keeping the damage down to reasonable levels, but I will always battle them out here where I live, due to ideal living conditions for roof rats. Even with all the predators I have in my area, Barn owls, Great Horned owls, Red Tailed hawks, Red Shoulder hawks, White Tailed kites, Peregrine Falcons, American Kestrels, Sharp Shinned hawks, coyotes, bobcats, roadrunners and weasels. All these predators I see on a daily basis still cannot keep our rodent population down, so I assist to keep my property from harm.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2013 at 10:50AM
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Min3 South S.F. Bay CA

If you hear rats chewing anywhere in/on/under your house, find the place and do something right away to stop them- trying to ignore rats can lead to weeks of sleepless nights and they invite their friends and multiply like crazy. Then they ALL chew. And poop. Ask us how we know. Min

    Bookmark   June 5, 2013 at 7:47PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Oh, Min. I'm so sorry. We should all post photos of the parts of our houses that we had to tear down to remove rat nests and dead rats.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 12:23AM
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For a second I thought your photo was for a rat named Waldo. I looked and looked. And then I paged down and realized there were no rats in the photo.:)

I too used to think the babies were cute, munching on my tomatoes and fruit trees.
Because once summer was over, they moved in to the converted garage. Relatively harmless? Maybe you don't consider "disgusting" harmful, but I sure do. Rats LOVE the smell of themselves, and they poop and chew everywhere and everything. They leave "scent trails" everywhere they go, with smears of rat ooze/poop/pee at rat height all along the shelving in my entire garage and on every surface. They chewed the drywall all around the outlets. They chewed through half a golfball (why? because it was there) They chewed little nests in the carpet under my cabinets. I could go on and on. AND they are really smart, and will only go to a trap once, then those left behind learn to avoid it.

Cute and harmless? I think not.

Buy a Ratzapper, worth every penny. They go in, they start to eat, they get electrocuted, you hold it over the trashcan. NEXT! And the best bait, believe it or not, is either bacon or dried fruit like raisins or cranberries.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 8:19PM
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Min3 South S.F. Bay CA

No way to take a photo of the rat hole on our old house, Rene- we finally found it by lying on our flat roof and looking under it and up into a difficult corner. This roof was built right over the original one and the rats had chewed their way in between them and were safe and dry. They invited friends and multiplied. Party time right over our bedroom! Even sounded some nights like they were moving furniture! There is no way to get a ladder up there so Mr Min had to hang over and screw on oddly shaped metal plates and repair some siding- a terribly difficult no-fun job.
I'm reading a book: My Backyard Garden by James Barilla and he has a chapter about the adventures of a rodent exterminator- a difficult and nasty occupation but much needed because rodents don't ever stop trying to get into our homes. Best to be aware of any chewing noises in house walls and do something about it right away! We waited far too long, hoping they would go away. Ha! Min

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 10:36AM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

If you see one.....there are a half dozen (or more!) hidden! Nancy

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 8:54PM
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I'm not a fan of rats running around the garden either and have had damage from roof and river rats running through the downspouts. And they just freak me out. The dogs chase them. I found a veritable rodent condo complex in the jasmine embedded in my ivy fence which is currently coming down to my neighbor's roommate's disappointment for a loss of his privacy. However, my fence, my ivy, it is coming down, I bought a bamboo screen and bequeathed it as an offering to his privacy while more manageable cover fills in. I use ultrasonic repellers in the house I've heard are crap. However both houses on either side have had rodents in-house and we have not. And those houses had cats. There are repellers that work outdoors but need to be aimed at a wall to bounce off from. I had one in a former garden because I got tired of coming down the stairs in back to have a rat in my face in my brugsmansias.

I admit it, I screamed like a girl, and am proud of it.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 5:22AM
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