Burrow Treatments for Rats

February 2023 Issue: Burrow Treatments for Rats

By: John Moore, MSc

Rat burrows around your structure can be an indicator of significant rodent pressure on your facility and the materials you handle and produce. This puts your operation at an elevated risk for a damaging food safety event, not to mention damage to your brand reputation. Taking action to treat these burrows and reduce rat pressure presents some challenges and other risks you may not have considered.

Rodenticide/Poison is often the first thing that comes to mind when treating burrows. This involves placing rodenticide down in the burrow hoping that the rat will consume the bait and die. However, there are significant risks with this approach. First, the rat may not consume all the bait, it may not consume any of the bait and kick it out of the burrow where it is now available to non-target animals like birds, family pets, and other area wildlife. Killing a non-target animal with a rodenticide is never a good thing and can potentially get you into legal trouble. Second, when rats do eat the bait, it can take them several days to die. As they become sicker, they may tend to wander out of their burrow exposing themselves to predators like owls, hawks, foxes, coyotes, and others. When these owls and hawks eat the rats, they are also eating the rodenticide that the rat consumed. If the birds and animals eat enough of the rats, they too will die from rodenticide poisoning. A 2017 study revealed that 97% of the Red Tailed Hawks found dead from encounters with cars on the highway had measurable amounts of rodenticide in their system.

Trapping also presents some challenges. To use traps properly often requires digging to place them properly. If traps are not set properly, rats can develop trap shyness and avoid them all together. Traps can also catch or injure non-target animals. Trapping is labor intensive as they must be checked, reset, move, baited, etc. every day. Not a very cost effective method.

Gassing is a method that eliminates most of the challenges listed above. Special machines specifically designed for rat burrows work by pumping carbon monoxide through the entire burrow system effectively and humanely killing the rats in their burrows. There are no rodenticides used so no risk to non-target animals. No traps to capture or injure non- target animals. This method also offers very fast reduction or elimination of rat pressures often in a single day. Eliminating risk and being very cost effective with little labor, This process is by far the most economical and safe method for treating rat burrows on the exterior of the facility. Several commercially available machines are out there for the professional pest control operator to use. Some are big and expensive, some small, compact, and less expensive. All of them work in the same way achieving the same goals.