The owl prowl: ready to catch any unsuspecting victims! Photo credit: Abby Blank
Considering that quite a few pests such as spiders, reptiles, amphibians or molluscs are considered as ‘pets’ these days, one really has to be aware of how to get rid of rats and any uninvited pests that show up on your doorstep without the risk of poisoning your (real) pets, family or other animals in your neighbourhood.
Owls make the perfect rodent control patrol
Making use of owls is becoming a popular form of rodent control in Johannesburg. These hooting hero’s get their claim to fame not only because a pair of barn owls catch a swooping two thousand rodents per year (almost a 3 rodents per day!), but also because the use of pesticides is not always an environment-friendly option.
A year ago, owls were introduced by the City of Johannesburg to get rid of rats and mice that plague Alexandra, the informal settlement located in Sandton. This pilot was launched to reduce the growing numbers of rodents in the area that were becoming a serious health risk to residents. Did you know that rats and mice are carries of diseases such as Salmonella, Weil’s disease, E.Coli and Tuberculosis? Not only do they pose health risks, but they also cause cable damage that can result in fires and also rip packaging that can contaminate food. These owls were distributed to 3 schools in the area, and according to Danny Mauwane, the city council’s Health (pest) practitioner, an analysis from the droppings in the owl houses display rat bones and other rodent remains.
This is not the only initiative to get rid of rats in Johannesburg; an environmental company in Fourways named EcoSolutions, also make use of owls as a way to implement rodent control in urban areas. A barn and spotted eagle owlets programme (“The Owl Box Project”) has been introduced to ensure that chicks are kept in release pens until they have adapted to the feeding programme in their geographical location. Once the owls have become familiarised with their territory, they then live free. This programme has successfully been launched in Fourways and if this “owl prowl” can be expanded to other areas, I can just imagine how the rodent population can be reduced… The sky is the limit in getting rid of rodents.
You might wonder what owl boxes are all about, seeing that this is placed at the centre point of making sure owlets become familiarised with their territory. These JoJo owl boxes are designed for both comfort and durability. An opening on the side of he box allows easy access, but at the same time ensures that the owlets and eggs are kept safely inside, of which the space can accommodate 6 chicks and their parents – quite cosy, I’d say! And what’s not to love – airing holes allow for a pleasant breeze to enter the box and also discourage bees from entering; plus as this owl box is either hung or placed on a pole, one can be sure that snakes or cats don’t get hold of the precious owl patrol that roams free to get rid of rats that cross their territory.
But, what about pesticides to get rid of rats and mice?
Although pesticides have proven effective in getting rid of rats and mice that as mentioned, they also contain chemicals that can be harmful to the environment, as well as to your pets and family. It is therefore crucial to be wary of making use of DIY pesticides as not only can they pose dangers when not applied correctly, but a lot of these chemicals are known as “second generation” pesticides that contain punitive compounds that work in killing rats and mice rapidly. Unfortunately, this also affects the non-target animal that eats the rodent, which can be owls – or your pets.
As advised, not only by the experts at Rentokil, but also by the Poison Working Group, that if ones utilises rodenticides to get rid of rats, one must use a rat control product that contains the lowest risk of secondary poisoning i.e. a first generation rodenticide. This is also referred to as a “multiple feed” rodenticide, because rodents feed on the rat bait in different helpings. It takes 3 successive feeds for the rat control product to work its magic and kill rats effectively. So, if an owl does catch and eat the rodent, they will not affect owls or your pets.
Even when using a rodenticide to get rid of rats and mice that invade your home, it is always best to rely on the professional rodent control experts to ensure that the first generation rat poison is applied correctly and in the safest manner possible. The rat bait used is available in a wax block form and is inserted in a closed of rat trap, also referred to as a rodent bait station in which owls and pets do not have access to.
A few tips on getting rid of rats and mice on your premises:
- Ensure rodents do not have access to water or food – they will then be forced to seek nourishment elsewhere.
- Be sure to keep the lids of rubbish bins tightly sealed and regularly empty bins; if not, this will be a big point of attraction for scampering critters.
- Close up any burrows or holes that rodents may have access to with a tightly wound chicken wire or cement.
- Remove any debris such as piles of wood or bricks to ensure they don’t have any nesting spots, and makes sure that if you do have to keep these items around that they are stored on a platform at least 1 cm away from the ground.
See more tips on getting rid of rats and mice.
Armed with both the owl prowl as well as rat bait, I am sure that the rodent population does not stand a good chance at all – they better think twice before they decide to invade my house and scurry around in my roof!