How can I keep rats out of my yard without hurting squirrels?

Sacramento, CA

Full confession - I feed birds and squirrels, so there are peanuts and birdseed around all the time. For many years of this, we never had a rat problem. But not anymore! We occasionally see the rats, but more often we find droppings, smell their urine and find things that have been chewed up. I prefer to deter rather than poison, but in either case I don't want to hurt the squirrels, opossums, etc. We're cleaning up things outside that may have drawn the rats here, but I need something to make the yard (and a small shed) less hospitable to them so they'll stay away. Any suggestions?

(Zone 5a)

I appreciate your appreciation for wildlife. :) We had opossums living under the porch for a time. I was disappointed I could not ever get pictures of them. I think they are cute. We raise rabbits and chickens, so some in the household were concerned, but I was able to convince them to just wait. They never bothered any of our animals. The silly things were not even scared off when our dog got one. It played dead, so survived. But they could not survive the Great Horned Owls in the area. At least that's what we think got them since the owls sounded like they were right on our roof one night. Since then we did not see any more of the opossums.

I have no idea if these work, but they are natural deterrents, so wouldn't harm anything.

I feed the birds (we do not have squirrels, but squinneys in the warm months) and it's been years since we last saw a rat. I am so grateful. We live out in the open, and have plenty of natural predators for rats. Only once has my husband had to deal with one.

I agree about poison, it is nasty stuff. Not only would it poison the rodents, but anything that preyed on the rodents.

Sorry to ramble on, but I enjoy the native wildlife around us.

Vienna, VA(Zone 7a)

Rats took up residence near my house, too, also because of my bird-feeding. The problem rats are usually Norway rats, and they like to dig holes at the foundation, so you might be able to deter them by spraying or sprinkling Critter Ridder all around the house. I also poured some into their holes. I tried a humane trap (open only at night so I wouldn't catch squirrels), but that didn't work.

You could try taking in the food at night for awhile, or putting baffles on feeder poles so they can't climb up.

There are mice living in my garage and shed, but I let them stay...better there than in the house! I haven't seen rats for awhile; hopefully they're gone.

Good luck!

Sacramento, CA

Thanks for the advice!

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

In years when there are a lot of natural seeds (the year after a lot of weeds) we have flare ups of native cotton rats. The are attracted to the food sources I have for birds. The best compromise I have come up with is to minimize cover at ground level, and never have a source for both low or ground level cover and food. So some of the plants and grasses I have (to supply natural seed for birds) had to be either removed or at least mowed. I presume Norway rats are like our Pack rats, and you will need to not only do something about their burrows, but their paths around the yard. Pack rats mark their trails with urine, and our Cotton rats had little semi-tunnels through the grass that mowing exposed. To sum up, get rid of ground-level burrows, cover, and paths. Get rid of easy access to food, especially food that provides cover or shelter.

Sacramento, CA

Great - thanks everyone!

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