Rodent control. Working with the professional

After years of trying many different methods, using an air rifle to control rats takes a lot of beating. As a technique it has the advantage that you don’t have problems with immunity. Not only that but you’re not leaving poisoned bait lying about where other animals might be exposed to it. On the other hand it does have the disadvantage that you have to be a reasonable shot.

Now I don’t advocate it as a sole method. But it works in well with other techniques. Ten or more years ago we had a lot of rats and a friend turned up with an air rifle with a starlight scope. He just quietly shot rats at night in the dark. He did admit that it felt like cheating at times. I was present when there were three rats looking over the edge of a trough in my direction. He shot the one of the left, then the one of the right. The one in the middle quietly faded from the scene. I suspect it was getting a bad feeling about the neighbourhood.

What we discovered was that with somebody out and about shooting them, the other rats were far more cautious about venturing far afield and tended to take more poisoned bait, so you got a synergistic effect.

My own experience is that if you are just shooting with iron sights, you can punish the brazen ones who venture forth in daylight. But you’ll not solve your problem.

Using a red beam of light does work well for a while. It doesn’t have to be an expensive piece of kit, I’ve seen people use the red wrapping from the appropriate Quality Street sweet. They just used sellotape to fasten it over the end of a torch. It worked perfectly adequately. There again after a while, it does seem that rats grow wary of red light and stay down.

Then there’s proper night vision equipment. It is expensive. I know people who have a starlight scope that cost more than the air rifle they’ve attached it to. I’ve never run to that expense, but if you are tackling a serious problem it’s probably necessary. But there are downsides. A friend of mine went into a factory in town where they were having a problem and he promised to try and help. He sat in the dark and eventually could hear some rustling. So he picked up his rifle and looked down the night vision. He said it was like a scene from ‘Aliens’. “They’re coming outta the goddamn walls!” He admitted that it came close to freaking him out. To be fair, he did most of his shooting from his bedroom window. He had a silencer on the rifle and would just shoot the rats in the back street.

But one advantage anybody has who comes to help control rats here is that we can offer them the assistance of a dedicated professional. Local knowledge comes in useful. The arrival of a cat on the scene meant we had to make changes. Once we’d welcomed Billy onto our staff, we stopped putting down poison bait. After all it seemed a bit ungrateful really. On the other hand, for all I know, Billy might be trying to tell us to put down horse radish or mint sauce.

Now we have a friend who comes and shoots rats for us when he can get the time off. When Billy first saw him ‘at work’, he used to sit and watch him from a distance. After a couple of nights Billy would then move closer and just sit six or ten feet away from him and keep an eye on the job.

Eventually he came across to get his ears scratched.

Recently we have had a couple of weeks of miserable wet weather. We’ve found that there’s no point in trying to shoot rats in the rain, they’ve got more sense than to come out in it. Billy is pretty much of the same opinion. But then we had a fine evening and our hunter arrived with his rifle. We left him to it.
Just as it was nicely dark, Billy appeared and sat next to him. They both sat there companionably and Billy watched as the first few rats bit the dust. Then he went across, nipped one that had been shot and had gone down, and carried it off somewhere. Two minutes later he was back.

Now it’s obvious that he feels that hunting involves changing your location reasonably regularly. When he felt our rifleman had been in place too long, he’d climb onto his shoulder to get him to move. In the new position he’d drop back down out of the way. At one point our rifleman said he wondered when Billy was going to start pointing out targets.
Eventually it was getting late and cold and the rats had decided tonight was a good night to stay in. Our rifleman went home, but by this time Billy had already taken another two of the nicer rats off for later. I suppose he regarded it as a fee for consultancy.   


It has to be admitted, we do tend to work with a lot of highly qualified professionals.

As a reviewer commented, “This is a selection of anecdotes about life as a farmer in Cumbria. The writer grew up on his farm, and generations of his family before him farmed the land. You develop a real feeling for the land you are hefted to and this comes across in these stories. We hear of the cattle, the sheep, his succession of working dogs, the weather and the neighbours, in an amusing and chatty style as the snippets of Jim Webster’s countryman’s wisdom fall gently. I love this collection.”

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26 thoughts on “Rodent control. Working with the professional

  1. Eddy Winko November 28, 2020 at 6:52 am Reply

    Love it 🙂

    • jwebster2 November 28, 2020 at 7:01 am Reply

      The two hunters seem to enjoy the relationship as well 🙂

  2. jenanita01 November 28, 2020 at 8:03 am Reply

    Billy sounds like a great character!

    • jwebster2 November 28, 2020 at 8:10 am Reply

      He is. He’s a cat who entirely organises his whole life, including meals and accommodation. He’s a feral cat who happens to like a small circle of people 🙂

      • jenanita01 November 28, 2020 at 7:53 pm

        That must make him unique!

      • jwebster2 November 28, 2020 at 8:14 pm

        I suppose he’s out there ‘just being a cat.’
        His own schedule, planning his own meals, doing his own job. We are ‘back up’ meals if he needs them. He’s part of the team and appreciated as such 🙂

  3. oldhenwife November 28, 2020 at 9:57 am Reply

    I can’t ‘read more of this post’, nothing happens when I click on it L

    But using an air rifle where we life is illegal, too many houses around. Are they worried that we might hit one?

    We have to use bait, under a shed where only slugs get at it.

    Perhaps we shouldn’t have hens … although we don’t get many rats – that is we don’t SEE many – perhaps three a year.

    What’s the saying – you’re only three metres from a rat? I don’t really mind them anyway, they’re not a problem in our garden.


  4. oldhenwife November 28, 2020 at 10:59 am Reply

    When I hit that it says ‘You don’t have any WordPress sites yet.
    Would you like to start one?’ and yet below it says ‘You are commenting using your account.’

    • jwebster2 November 28, 2020 at 12:28 pm Reply

      That’s not a problem I have I’m afraid 😦

  5. patriciaruthsusan November 28, 2020 at 12:08 pm Reply

    Good story. My dad used a rifle to shoot rats under his bird feeder. My daughter had a cat who used to carry his toy catnip mouse by the tail. 😀 — Suzanne

    • jwebster2 November 28, 2020 at 12:29 pm Reply

      Just keeping on top of them is a constant battle

  6. patriciaruthsusan November 28, 2020 at 12:18 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Musings on Life & Experience and commented:
    Solutions to a rat problem.

  7. oldhenwife November 28, 2020 at 1:18 pm Reply

    Jim, what’s your problem with rats?

    • jwebster2 November 28, 2020 at 2:29 pm Reply

      They fought the dogs, and killed the cats,
      And bit the babies in the cradles,
      And eat the cheeses out of the vats,
      And licked the soup from the cooks’ own ladles,
      Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
      Made nests inside men’s Sunday hats,
      And even spoiled the women’s chats
      By drowning their speaking
      With shrieking and squeaking
      In fifty different sharps and flats.

      If you don’t keep on top of them they get to be a problem. We lost a batch of heifer calves to weils disease a lot of years ago because of them, they foul feed and chew electrics

  8. Cathy Cade November 28, 2020 at 1:36 pm Reply

    We’ve had rats chew the wiring under our car before now so it wouldn’t start. They move in under a lean-to against our garage from time to time and polish off the bird seed under the bird table on the edge of the dyke.
    I can see the bird table from the window where I have my laptop, and am happy to see mice there as they don’t tend to coexist with rats. The window’s a good spot for shooting from as long as you don’t spook them when opening the window, but getting my husband to the window with his rifle before the rats have departed is a bit of a mission these days.
    I was recommended some strong rat traps and bought tunnels to set them in, but stopped using them when I came down to find a rat trapped by it’s back legs that had managed to open the tunnel door and had probably been struggling all night to get away. My husband insisted on getting dressed before he came down to shoot it (I’ll have to ask him for lessons) and I had to keep the dogs away in the meantime.
    That year I resorted to poison, as I could slip the sachets down a hole under the hardstanding where the dogs couldn’t get it, but whenever we found a dead bird or mouse in the garden I felt guilty (and, of course, worried about the dogs finding them, in case they were poisoned). We have sparrowhawks and red kites around here, so I’m hoping it was hamfisted hawks responsible for the corpses.

    • jwebster2 November 28, 2020 at 2:31 pm Reply

      Get lessons. And set up a torch shining over the garden with red cellophane across the lens so you can see them at night 🙂

  9. Cathy Cade November 28, 2020 at 5:36 pm Reply

    We already have a light coming on at night at that side of the house. It isn’t a red one but it doesn’t seem to put the rats off. They’re happy to come up during the day too. Don’t think we have any at the moment, but himself has just started feeding the birds again for winter, so we’ll soon find out.

    • jwebster2 November 28, 2020 at 6:25 pm Reply

      If they’re used to it, then that should work for you 🙂

  10. Widdershins November 29, 2020 at 4:26 am Reply

    That Billy, a professional, through and through! 😀

    • jwebster2 November 29, 2020 at 6:00 am Reply
      • Widdershins November 29, 2020 at 7:26 am

        Heh, there’s some seriously intense imagery in that video! 😀

      • jwebster2 November 29, 2020 at 8:07 am

        When a cat is ‘simply the best’ he’s not going to have his light hidden under any bushels or his prowess downplayed 🙂
        (Except of course when hunting 😉 )

  11. M T McGuire December 2, 2020 at 10:03 am Reply

    Oh bless, that’s hilarious. Billy is clearly very smart. I like the picture, it looks as if he has a full fluff on. McCat actually goes full bog brush with the excitement when he gets fed sometimes. He’s basically a tabby version of Humbert the foul mouthed parrot. Although Humbert was written years before McCat was so much as a twinkle in his roving father’s eye.

    I love the idea of Billy agitating at the guy so he would move to a better area and I’m glad he got a couple of nice plump meals out of it too.



    • jwebster2 December 2, 2020 at 12:20 pm Reply

      The pick of the crop for our Billy 🙂

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