It’s estimated by Arizona officials that about 13 years ago, nasty Norwegian or European roof rats probably arrived in the Phoenix area by hiding in a moving van.
Since then, they have multiplied, particularly in residential areas where fruit trees of all kinds offer meals. Although some have traveled south, Maricopa County is where they seem to be happiest.
If you have them in your neighborhood, they may hide among the shrubs and trees, but they also make nests in attics.
Sometimes you hear them scratching around in your walls. Another sign is all the hollowed out oranges and peels lying around your trees.
Don’t lose heart. You can stave off the invaders:
- Get help. Call the county’s environmental services department to check out your home and neighborhood and give you advice. The county often recommends hiring professional exterminators to set up bait stations or snap traps baited with peanut butter, oats or nuts.
- Seal up your house. Caulk holes and close up cracks and gaps in your walls and under the eaves. Put screens on roof vents and secure pet doors and window screens at night.
- Clean all the debris out of your yard. Prune tree limbs and thin out big bushes. Take down vines crawling up walls. Clean out old growth under trees and shrubs.
- As soon as nearly ripe fruit appears on trees, pick all of it. This may mean giving some to neighbors or squeezing juice and freezing it. Citrus trees and pomegranates are some of the biggest problems.
- Stop feeding the birds. Keep your garbage cans tightly covered.
- Careful with pet food. If you feed your pets outside, be sure not to leave the food out overnight.
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