Four things you didn't know about rats (number three will shock you!)
It's been a few weeks since your rat trap purchase and (unless you're still waiting on your order) we hope you've set your trap and are perhaps even seeing some results. We now have a page set up where you can record your kills - this is essential so we can measure progress and let New Zealand know how well we are doing.
So when you kill a rat (or see a strike count on your Goodnature A24 - you won't often see a body) please fill in the details here, and feel free to send us a photo to boast! Remember every rat caught is one less predator eating our native birds, eggs, lizards, insects and seeds.
In the mean time, to help you with your trapping, here are four things you probably didn't know about rats:
1. There are several different species of rats in New Zealand
Three to be precise: the kiore, the ship rat and the Norway rat. The kiore, which came with early Polynesian settlers, has now been crowded out into the very south of the south island. The ship rat can climb very well but can't swim, while the Norway can swim but can't climb. Both of these two are common in Grey Lynn - the Norways are the ones that get properly big though. Pictured below is one we caught in the garden with our DOC200 last summer (the bait is tahini muesli!).
2. There are fewer rats around now than any other time of the year
Rats start breeding in September, but right now they're at a population low after losing a few through winter mortality and not yet having started reproducing. We're noticing fewer kills than at other times of year in our backyard traps, but equally it's a great month for you to begin trapping in your own garden, to make the greatest impact on numbers over summer's peak season.
3. Rats are cannibals
Keen ratter Mike emailed us this week - he opened up his Victa box one morning to find a heck of a mess inside. "Is there any chance my dead rat was eaten by another rat?" he asks. Yes Mike, it happens from time to time - rats will chomp on a dead friend with little hesitation, and will usually skin him neatly in the process. We also have a photo of that, but won't risk losing subscribers by posting it here!
4. Rats are fussy about where they eat
"Life for a rat is dangerous", explains Sean from Goodnature. "If you were being chased or stalked, would you stop for a roast meal along the way? That's why it's so important to put out the chew cards, so you can identify the spots in your garden that your rat feels comfortable eating".
You can't move a Goodnature trap once it's been set due to the sensitive gas canister, so you'll want to make sure you get it right the first time. DOC200s and Victa traps are easier to move round of course - just don't make the mistake of putting them next to a known rat attractant like a compost bin. If the rat has plenty of good tucker nearby it'll be less likely to investigate a potentially dangerous new food source.
(By the way, some of us never have had luck getting chew cards chewed, but manage to catch plenty of rats anyway. So don't get too frustrated if you don't get any nibbles, just put out your trap and see how you go.)
Thanks for reading, get in touch if you have any questions or comments, and spread the word among your Grey Lynn neighbours. If we get a few trappers in each street we'll be well on our way to making our suburb rat free and safe for the native birds to return.
Jesse, Sarah and Yvonne
The Predator Free Grey Lynn team