Oh, Rats!

As if historic droughts, seasonal wildfires, and a pandemic aren’t enough, pests have decided to join the fray. Rodents have come in from the less inhabited parts of Mendocino County to take advantage of all the food, water, and shelter humans have to offer.

I know this because until recently, my home was providing far more amenities to far more rodents than I could have imagined. As a kid growing up in Ukiah, I never saw a rat. Sadly, this has changed.

When I first saw evidence of rodents in my pantry, at the request of my vegan daughter, I bought humane, no-kill traps. We captured about a dozen rats, all told, and transported them to local wilderness areas, where we let them go. If this had solved the problem, I would have felt happy—for the rats and mostly for my daughter. Sadly, it did not.

We soon discovered rat and mouse droppings in other areas. Lest you think you need a dirty house to have a rodent infestation, think again. Rodents are perfectly happy to invade clean homes and dirty homes alike.

I gave up on humane traps and bought poison-based traps, assuming the no-kill traps didn’t really work. Turns out, they do; the problem was that we had more rodents than traps. If you are recoiling from the idea of mice and rats in your home, I assure you, I understand. I’m only sharing this to prevent others from experiencing something similar.

When my kids reported hearing scratching sounds in the walls as they tried to fall asleep, I realized the problem required expert help. I called J.D. Zastros, a local exterminator, whose experts identified rodent nests in our insulation and ducting. This was not just a few mice or rats in the pantry. It was many, many rodents in many, many places. I don’t think I have words to fully describe the horror of this discovery.

Clearly, this presented a potential health hazard, as well as potential structural damage to our house and loss of food and other supplies (like our cat food that was stored in a “pest-proof” container). To remedy the situation, I called Redwood Restoration, a company that specializes in this sort of thing.

The clean-up has been expensive, but for me, worth every penny. Redwood Restoration made sure any remaining rodents were exterminated and removed. Then they began the clean-up and repair. They found all access points into the house and we plugged them, often using expanding foam full of rodent poison that seals even the tiniest little holes. They removed the insulation in our attic and under the floor and we replaced it. We also had old, damaged ducting removed and replaced. They recommended heavy-duty air scrubbers (hepa filters) to remove contaminated dust particles throughout the house.

With this horrible experience pretty much behind us, here’s what I learned: If you see any evidence of an infestation, rodent or otherwise, do not be lulled into thinking it’s no big deal. Go at it with everything you’ve got. Call an exterminator immediately. If you feel compelled to do so, donate to the Humane Society, but do not operate under the false pretense that you can move all the pests to a better home somewhere out in the wilderness.

Although pests don’t much care if you keep a clean house or a dirty one, they do like it when you stack firewood against your house, so I recommend clearing your property of underbrush and keeping firewood away from your home. This has the dual benefit of helping safeguard your home in the event of a fire and keeping other bugs out of your home.

If you have questions about property management or real estate, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 45 years.

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