Birds unintentionally killed in Palo Alto backyard rat traps

 DEAR JOAN: After roof rats started to
destroy my winter vegetable garden of cabbage, broccoli,
cauliflower and spinach, I tried rat traps baited with peanut
butter.

What
I found out is that Oregon juncos also have a taste for peanut
butter and I inadvertently killed several, along with killing
several rats.

Do you have any suggestions as to another rat-tempting food?

Saul Wasserman, Palo Alto

DEAR SAUL: Rat traps are one of the more
efficient ways of dealing with rats, but they can be dangerous to
wildlife and pets.

In most cases, traps kill cleanly and quickly. They’re fairly
inexpensive, too, and can be used indoors and out. Another good
trap is a rat zapper that runs on batteries and delivers a lethal
dose of electricity, killing the rat instantly. These are far more
expensive — in the $50 range — and are not good for outdoor
use.

To avoid killing other animals, place traps under overturned
boxes with small entrance and exit holes cut into them. They
shouldn’t be large holes — rats are capable of squeezing into
tight places. The box should be tall enough to allow the trap
mechanism to swing freely. Put a weight on top of the box to keep
it in place.

Although small birds, such as the junco, can fit through the
holes, they are much less likely to wander into dark, tight
quarters. This will prevent pets from getting to the traps,
too.

Favorite foods for rats are walnuts, beef jerky and bacon. If
you tie the food down on the trap’s trigger —  one reader
glues his — the rat has to work harder to get it and is more
likely to get trapped. For non-food items, a glob of dental floss
for nest building will work.

Apologies to my friends who oppose killing animals, but for
those who do set traps, I want you to do so responsibly.

DEAR JOAN: According the California Fish and
Game Commission, it is illegal to feed wildlife. Crows should not
be fed as they tend to scare away other birds, too.

It states in no way are humans to feed wild animals or in any
way alter their natural habits. In our small community, someone is
feeding our foxes and this has made the rat population increase and
become a danger to us. Also, if you have a bird feeder, there
should be something beneath it to catch the seed, to be removed at
night. Rats are out at night and love the seed.

Mother Nature knows what she is doing, and we do not need to
feed wild animals, but just enjoy watching them. I am sure you do
not want us to harm animals, but to live in harmony with
nature.

Gayle Garrison, Bay Area

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DEAR GAYLE: I certainly do want us to live in
harmony with nature, and you’re exactly right about the law, but
feeding the birds is generally given a pass by wildlife officials
because it does not interfere with the natural order of things.
Birds already live in our neighborhoods and feeding them doesn’t
disrupt their lives.

That doesn’t excuse us from being responsible, however. As you
say, we need to keep the area around our feeders — and the
feeders themselves — as clean and tidy as possible.

I agree about letting wildlife make it on their own with no help
or hindrance from us.

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Source: FS – All – Interesting – News 2
Birds unintentionally killed in Palo Alto backyard rat traps