Tips for Urban Residents
As in any big city, San Francisco residents are no strangers to mice and rats. We see them on the streets, scurrying through the BART stations, and unfortunately, in our residences. They have been particularly troublesome during the recent construction boom, as building activity has disrupted their nests and pushed rodents to seek new shelters and sources of food.
Rats and mice are “commensal” animals, meaning that they live in close proximity to humans. Rodent infestations in San Francisco are frequently due to the common house mouse, the California deer mouse, the Norway rat (brown rat) and the black rat. These critters can survive on anything from birdseed to newspaper, wood and kitchen grease. They are so adept at survival that the San Francisco Department of Public Health responds to about 350 complaints of rat infestations each year – that’s almost one per day!
At times, rodent proofing in San Francisco can seem like an impossible task. But there are some things residents can do to keep their homes from becoming the next rodent hotel:
1. Eliminate nesting areas and access to food. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Rodents will only live where there is access to food and shelter. When rodent proofing in San Francisco, residents should pay special attention to keeping kitchen and dining areas clean and free of crumbs. Dry food – including pet food – should be stored in chew-proof containers. Trash cans should be sealed and lids secured with bungee cords. Even picking up fallen fruit and vegetables from the garden is helpful. Nesting areas can be eliminated by keeping grass and vegetation neat and trimmed. Outdoor items like furniture and grills should be covered and stored away from buildings. Remove trash and junk cars, and be sure to store wood and other building materials at least a foot off the ground. This makes it harder for rodents to nest there.
2. Eliminate points of entry. If rodents are getting inside the home, residents should determine how they are gaining access and then fill in those gaps. A flashlight can be useful in identifying any holes, cracks or gaps around pipes, doors and vents. Fill in everything, even if it seems too small to matter. Mice can fit through openings a small as a dime, and rats the size of a quarter. Steel wool or insulation are good temporary measures and should keep rodents away until the areas can be permanently covered with foam sealant, hardware cloth or metal flashing.
3. Use traps. Use traps inside houses, not poison bait. Poison can be dangerous to people and pets, and poisoned rodents can die inside walls, creating a terrible odor as they decompose. Place snap or glue traps along walls, every five to 10 feet. They can also be placed in cupboards or drawers.
4. Try poison bait. Poison can be effective in outdoor areas, as long as children and pets will not come into contact with it. Some are quick killing, while others require that mice and rats eat it every day for about a week before they die. Bait stations can be set up anywhere there are signs of rodents. Once the rodents are no longer feeding on the bait, the station can be removed and stored for future use.
5. Call a professional. Sometimes, it may be necessary to call a professional. In the case of serious infestations or rodents that have been difficult to catch, fumigants may be the best option, and those should only be used by licensed exterminators.
San Francisco rodent proofing can be difficult. Homeowners should remember that rats and mice breed fast, so it’s best to treat a problem at the very first sign. A single female mouse can have several young when she is only eight weeks old. In another eight weeks, those offspring will breed, and the mother can produce another litter. In a short time, a single rodent can lead to a full-blown infestation.