Rat trap of unusual size.
May 12, 2016 7:52 AM   Subscribe

I need to select a kid-safe, dog-safe rat trap for a large rat who gives no fucks.

I was hanging with a friend in the backyard yesterday, drinking beers as we do, and was left speechless by a rat the size of an AT-AT walking through the garden. When my dog went to chase it, it barely sped up and just lumbered away. This thing has been eating our garden and I'd like to nip this ASAP to prevent our garden from being decimated this season.

I've never dealt with rats or vermin before, aside from the errant mouse or two. I have certainly never tackled something this size. For real guys, this thing could have been raised by possums or nutreas or was a NYC sewer rat that got transplanted here.

What is the best trap, or multiple-prong-trap strategy to use here, with the caveat that it needs to be dumb-dog and 4.5-year-old-kid safe. I'm not super interested in a humane trap, because I have no place to release a rat, or multiple rats that won't just be moving the problem onto someone else.

Actual lay of the land: There is a little burrow hole under the fence between my house and my neighbors. My dog has been interested in this spot for weeks, which makes sense now. We have an enclosed, detached shed that we could house more violent/virulent traps in, but I have no evidence that the rat hangs out there. We have raised beds all along that part of the yard.
posted by furnace.heart to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You're not going to have much luck finding something that can kill a rat the size of a wombat, while still being 'totally safe' to a small child or a dumb dog. You'll probably have to go with a humane trap for safety reasons-- Havahart traps are what you want and -possibly- your local animal control will 'rent' you one (pay deposit, get it back on return). Your local animal control is also who you'd call once you have trapped your rat-- they will deal with it (and not by releasing it somewhere, I'm sure, in the case of a rat). You'd probably have good luck putting the trap where you saw the rat-- they tend to follow similar routes, and bait it with something that smells like what it's been eating already-- if he's been eating your tomatoes, bait it with a nice piece of tomato, or perhaps some peanut butter (this seems to be the universal favorite). Good luck!
posted by The otter lady at 7:58 AM on May 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

Exactly how big is the rat? Will it fit into something like this electric squirrel trap?
posted by bondcliff at 8:02 AM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have you considered shooting it, like with a gun? Seriously, traps seem like the wrong solution here. Traps are ideal for tiny quick clever things, not slow lumbering large things. Substitute actual gun for gun-like ranged weapon if guns are illegal for use in your area.
posted by deathpanels at 8:11 AM on May 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Excuse the hyperboles; the rat was about as thick as a mason jar, and about 8-9" long (snout to butt, I'm sure its tail was longer). I've seen pet rats before, and this was easily twice to three times as large as the ones I've seen. Much larger than the squirrels we have in our hood.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:12 AM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ok, I don't know how squeamish you are, so I'm just going to leave it here in the form of an interesting statistic. The number one murder weapon in America is the shovel.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:33 AM on May 12, 2016 [12 favorites]

You could have an exterminator put a bait box in your yard. The poison goes inside, it has a hole that the rat can go through, but it keeps dogs and kids out.
posted by cecic at 8:34 AM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I had a fairly large rat working my city lot a few months ago. I used something similar to this (amazon). Placed along the fence line, since they usually traverse borders. They are able to squeeze into pretty small places, so it can probably get to the bait. The poison is slow acting, the idea is that they take it and go off and die somewhere else. Dog or child should not be able to get to the bait without some serious work.

It was only out for a few days before I noticed a chunk of bait was missing. Have not seen that rat since.

I can also second sexyrobot, a shovel will work quit well if you don't mind the cleanup.
posted by kris.reiss at 8:39 AM on May 12, 2016

I'd caution against poison. As the rat can die somewhere very inconvenient for you and the smell will be nasty. Also, there is the possibility of secondary poisoning if your dog eats the poisoned rat. A humane trap might be best because of simple logistics (size, kid, dog). You could always bring it to animal control after.
posted by Vaike at 9:10 AM on May 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've done this for regular mousetraps in the house to keep a toddler safe. You can upsize it for a rat. Basically construct a rugged box large enough to keep a child from reaching from one end (the entrance) to the other end. Then fasten the regular snap trap to the floor at the other end, out of reach. Keep the entrance just big enough for the mouse/rat to enter. Make sure the snap trap is secure enough not to move if the box is picked up. Simple and safe. Also it helps to include a clear window over the trap itself so you can tell if it has been sprung.

I'll add that rugged is relative to the child, in my case the child was a baby so I used cardboard and that was perfectly fine. For a toddler/dog I'd go with something stronger.
posted by no1hatchling at 9:22 AM on May 12, 2016

If you get a humane trap from your local animal control or SPCA, you can then catch the rat, marvel at its size and let your kid look at it, and then have animal control deal with it. Havaheart traps are safe for kids and pets (no sharp parts, no exposes springs, no poison), but you might get some false positives when you catch a neighbor cat or angry possum instead.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:25 AM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

What are the local ordinances on BB guns? My father may have solved this very problem in my early years.
posted by corb at 10:14 AM on May 12, 2016

Response by poster: We've only seen this rat once, even though there's ample evidence of his existence. This precludes most projectile, and direct connection (re: shovel or otherwise) solutions. Spotting him to get at him would be a huge hurdle, and my ability to actually connect with the rat is seriously suspect. Sadly, we're working with traps and trickery for this one.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:46 AM on May 12, 2016

Have you got a postitive ID because it sounds more like a woodchuck
posted by canoehead at 11:32 AM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

it is possible this is a nutria? If you live anywhere near a riverfront in Oregon, you have nutria, and they can look like rats. Use a trap built for raccoon, anything for rats/mice is just going to be entertainment for this monster (I would shoot with an airgun-not a bb gun, and actual airgun and this would give me the excuse to get a good one). Once you have it in a trap you have to deal with it-either dead or alive. I might just hire an exterminator if unwilling to off it and throw in the garbage.
posted by bartonlong at 11:59 AM on May 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

Rats are very smart and harder to trap because of that. A rat that large has surely figured out how to avoid dumb traps, etc. I would consult an exterminator. This is varsity-level stuff.
posted by quince at 12:44 PM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

You need a rat zapper. There are apparently a lot to choose from nowadays, so I have no specific recommendations, but they're very dog and kid safe. Rat walks in and zap, does not walk out. I would not even try poison with a dog in the picture, too risky, go straight to more direct methods.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:58 PM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

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