By Rick Schleicher
Black rats are all over the world, same species. They’re here in the Galapagos too. Having pushed the two-endemic species of rats we have here to near extinction, (one of our rats is/was the size of a dog) they are also wreaking havoc with other species, particularly one member of a biped mammalian strain, me.
In the Galapagos, the government’s solution to rats is poison. It is available for free. “How much do you want?” Literally, you go to the government office, and they give you these deep blue colored, extra-large, dice sized cubes in whatever quantity you ask. I’ve never done it because it doesn’t only kill the rats of course, but whatever feeds on their carcasses, also if a pet cat or dog or kid decided to lick one of these cubes… I have five times forced Soup’s childhood buddy/small dog to puke up rat poison to save its life. Amazingly, the dog still lives.
The government’s efforts have not decreased the rat population. Their efforts have killed countless wild birds, lizards and messed with the food chain, I keep waiting for the day I see deep blue colored maggots.
Believe me, I gave deep consideration to coexistence with the rats and how that might work. Wiser men than me have failed to align themselves and the rats to an acceptable cohabitation arrangement. This is why I prefer a “body count”. Give me a dead rat that I know my efforts have achieved without killing anything else. Give me a rat trap. Give me five modified rat traps (the Chinese rat traps which are the only ones available here do not work without some serious tweaking) appropriately placed. This of course is an ongoing/never ending process and of course I let it slide sometimes.
If you spot a rat in your house, you don’t want it to get away; acceptable behavior here is for you to try and clobber it with something. This can be a family affair, get the kids involved. If the rat happens to run into the bathroom for example, send the oldest male offspring in with a broom and close the door. Mano a Mano.
We get our bananas in what is technically called a “stem” or “stalk” which has maybe twenty “bunches” in it, bunches being how you purchase bananas at a supermarket in the US. Our stems cost $5. So, you hang the stem from a rope in a shady place and eat the bananas as they ripen, top of the stem to the bottom. This is handy, the bananas don’t bruise as they ripen, but the truly functional reason for hanging them is to make it hard for the rats to get to them. The stem must be placed so that the rats can’t jump to it or be able to climb down the rope from which it is suspended. There’s an art to it.
So, the rats were eating our bananas despite my most creative efforts. Turned out they were getting to them by a running approach across the back of the couch on our ocean view veranda, ending in a five-foot leap and a desperate grab at a banana so as not to fall off. How was I supposed to know they could do a running broad jump of five feet? Then they chewed through the one-gallon plastic water bottle I use to water the plants out there, but the final straw was they started eating Soup’s plastic nerf bullets.
I began, yet again another “campaign”. For six nights I was getting three rats a night, (the two other traps having sprung with no victim, bait gone) which is kind of gruesome first thing in the morning, half the time the rats aren’t dead, just got the side of their head or their arm or sometimes even their tail caught so you have to dispatch them with a shovel, plus you wonder about your technique/setting of the two non productive traps.
That was an awful lot of rats in an awful short time. It got me to thinking, what on earth had they been doing? I had caught eighteen of hard to know, how many in six nights? What were they doing? Can you imagine twenty-five/thirty rats all hanging out together? Banana party at Rick’s? Banana leaping competition? The judges appreciate smoothness of approach and flight along with distance and height? Then one of the less acrobatic rats as a way of garnering attention, “You think that’s good, watch me chew into this plastic water jug!” Another rat, “That’s nothing, watch me eat this plastic nerf bullet! Delicious!”
I’m still at it two weeks later. Down to one or two a night.