The common rodent pests are the house mouse (mus domesticus) and the brown rat (rattus norvegicus). The black rat (rattus rattus), once widespread in this country, is now confined to minor colonies in a few of the country's ports.
Why do we need to control them?
Rats are implicated as the carriers of a large number of diseases. The most notorious example being the bubonic plague which ravaged England in the 17th Century, and continued until about 1910. The disease is now eradicated in this country, but is still present elsewhere in the world. Fleas living on the black rat carry it, the demise of which has consequently reduced the risk of the plague in Great Britain.
Rats also carry many food poisoning organisms, such as salmonella, and food sources may be contaminated by contact with droppings, urine or contaminated bodies.
Of increasing concern, is Weil's disease (leptospirosis) which is present in the urine of some 70% of rats, and poses a serious risk to persons exposed to waters contaminated by infected rats, e.g. sewer workers, water sports enthusiasts etc.
The incisor teeth of rodents do not stop growing, and to wear them down they will gnaw on any available object. Woodwork, metal pipes and electrical cables all provide a suitable gnawing surface, leading to considerable damage and posing a serious fire risk.
An infestation of rodents must be controlled promptly, or their reproductive ability soon allows them to establish a large colony. A female rat may have her first litter of baby rats (called kittens) when only 4 months old, and may have up to five litters (numbering up to 14 kittens) per year. Given ideal living conditions therefore numbers can increase rapidly.
Mice are even more prolific. Under ideal conditions, a pair could produce up to 2000 young per year.
It is a requirement of the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act that the presence of rats and mice must be reported to the Local Authority. Tendring District Council provides a subsidised or free treatment service to all domestic properties in its area (see the pest control page for details). All businesses should monitor for rodents, and carry out pest control treatments as appropriate.
Where do they live?
The house mouse will inhabit any building where it can find warmth, shelter and a food supply. Old farm buildings, sheds and outbuildings are favourite spots, however given the opportunity; they will readily inhabit domestic dwellings.
Brown rats usually live in a network of underground burrows, and have colonised many public sewers. If they gain access to domestic dwellings (especially in the winter months) they can become easily established in concealed spaces such as lofts and cavity walls.
How can we control them?
Rats and mice will readily gain access to a house if given the opportunity to do so. A small rat can squeeze through a 1/2" gap, and a mouse through an even smaller hole. Therefore any holes for example around door frames, in brickwork or broken windows should be filled and premises should be maintained as 'vermin proof' as possible. Don't forget to allow for adequate ventilation however!
It is wise to avoid situations that attract vermin. Refuse should not be allowed to accumulate and should be removed promptly. Dustbins should be fitted with tight close-fitting lids. Do not leave pet or other animal food out overnight, it is a free meal for rats and for the same reason, do not place bird tables or other food receptacles close to the house.
Rats may often be found in drains around buildings. Ensure that these are kept in good condition and that inspection covers are intact, securely fitted and in place.
Be aware of places where rodents may find shelter. False ceilings, boxed in pipes and heating ducts are all relatively inaccessible places where rodents can enjoy a warm, peaceful existence - try to maintain some form of access.
What if you do have rodents on your property?
If you see rodents on your premises, or find evidence of their presence - rat holes or droppings - then you should contact the Pest Control Service. A Pest Control Officer will visit your premises, carry out a brief survey, and, if appropriate, carry out a baiting programme. You may be required to take measures to keep children and pets away from the poisoned bait and you will always be advised of any other precautionary measures which may be necessary. The officer will return to check if the bait has been taken, and lay more bait as necessary, until satisfied that the rats or mice have been eradicated.
If you are concerned that there are rats or mice on a neighbouring property, then, in the first instance it may be prudent to approach the occupier and inform them that the Council provides a Pest Control Service. If this approach is unsuccessful then you should report your concerns to the Council's Environmental Services Team and a Council Officer may visit the premises to evaluate the situation. Environmental Services produce an information and advice leaflet which you can download and print - Rats Advice Leaflet.pdf
If you have a problem with rats or mice please contact Pestclear, the Council's contractor, on 01255 433999 for treatment. N.B. This is a chargeable service, visit the Pest Control home page for details of the current charge.