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Preventing and Managing Rats in Compost

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6th National Cultivating Community Composting Forum
Panel 5: BMPs and Rodent Control
Caroline Bragdon
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Published in: Environment
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Preventing and Managing Rats in Compost

  1. 1. R a t I p m Preventing and Managing Rats in Compost Community Composting Best Management Practices May 14, 2019
  2. 2. Outline for today • What do rats need to survive? • How do you Prevent rats? • What to do when you have a rat problem in your compost? • What to do with the compost once rats have been in it?
  3. 3. Harborage
  4. 4. Rat Burrow under Compost
  5. 5. Planning for Compost • Compost generates heat which may attract rodents and any other vertebrates or invertebrates – Inspect frequently and monitor for activity • Compost will not serve as a huge attractant IF you only put garden and vegetable scraps in it – Food scraps should ONLY be introduced with a strong rat management plan in place.
  6. 6. Pest-proofing compost • Rodent-resistant compost bins – All food waste should be containerized – Containers can be solid plastic or steel, wood is easy for them to gnaw through – Make sure the bin has a tightly fitted lid • Using stainless steel mesh around bins – If your bin is placed on the soil, install the mesh between the soil and the bottom of the bin. – Add a vertical screen (stainless steel, 6 to 8 inches into the ground) around the perimeter of the bin. • Managing material to prevent nesting and monitoring for activity • Using a raised platform with concrete, gravel fill below • Site the compost area away from any other harborage and keep the area clutter free
  7. 7. Rat proof compost structures • Before installing structures: – Dig out area that rats used to live 6” or more deep – Lay down metal mesh/fabric that deters rats from eating through – Fill on top of the mesh with gravel or construction filler 6” or more – Avoid “chicken mesh” or any material that rusts
  8. 8. Rat Proofing • Cover exterior openings within 4 feet of ground or reachable by pipes, wires, stairs, roofs, trees, vines • In severely infested areas – you can use poly-resin mesh hardware cloth and embed it into the soil. – http://www.getxcluder.com/ • Maintain screens in good repair • Construct sewers, pipes, drains, conduits and related openings to prevent ingress or egress of rats • Neatly store construction materials outside the building away from the exterior walls of the structure • Don’t let rats nest in clutter or materials set aside for work
  9. 9. Materials for Exclusion
  10. 10. Must cover all available earthen space
  11. 11. Create Clean Sight Lines – No clutter
  12. 12. Choose knock-down methods carefully • If you like to DIY – you can use snap traps. • Trapping is for those tough folks. • You must check them every day. • You can and should re-use your traps. • Set traps along the lines that rats travel. • Make sure the trigger side faces wall. • Do not set traps first couple of nights, let them get used to your trap. • Use a tiny bit of bait – not too much!
  13. 13. Rat Ice Treatment Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide. As it melts, it turns into carbon dioxide gas, which fills the burrow, asphyxiating any rats inside. This method eliminates secondary poisoning towards birds of prey, pets, and wildlife. Due to our successful pilot in 2016 it has now been approved for use by the EPA in New York State under the trade name “Rat Ice”.
  14. 14. If you decide you need to bait – you cannot DIY. Work with a good pest professional: • Must be licensed (NY Pesticide Business Registration License) with a minimum of 5 years experience • Must provide labels prior to pesticide application • Supply MSDS (material safety data sheets) and fact sheets about pesticides • Keeps comprehensive records of work done • Provides a written treatment plan in advance of applying pesticides or placing traps and bait stations • Remember: you get what you pay for.
  15. 15. 17 Legal rodenticide use • The label is the law • All rodenticide labels require tamper- resistant stations • Read the label on both the station and the bait • The bait station should be secured, locked, and labeled • If the rodents are inside, consider using traps
  16. 16. Have a Professional Install Tamper- resistant Bait Stations and Check Them Regularly
  17. 17. Supervise your pest control contractors If you pay someone to treat your garden, supervise their every move, make sure they: • Check entire perimeter of area • Place bait stations in likely pest areas and remove old or unused bait stations • Provide you information on the level of infestation • Follow-up every 2 weeks for the first two months following initial treatment and then inspect site once per month • Submit completed forms at every visit • Provide notice when infestation has been eliminated
  18. 18. 1. Look for Active Rat Signs and Monitor the site daily 2. Have a Pest Log 3. Wash away droppings/rubmarks 4. Get rid of all clutter and weeds (weed so you can see the ground) 5. Trim under shrubs to eliminate homes for rodents, avoid dense planting 6. Keep food waste in sealed containers 7. Use roof cement to seal cracks and holes 8. Close burrows every day 9. Cover drains with heavy-duty metal screening secured with nails or cement 10. Install traps in paths that rats travel Ten Things You Can Do To Prevent Rats in Gardens
  19. 19. What are the public health concerns associated with having rodents in a garden? • Any animal waste can contain a wide range of potentially harmful parasites and bacteria. • Cats are the natural reservoir of the protozoal parasite Toxoplasma gondii and can transiently pass it in their feces. • Rodents can carry a range of diseases (all of which are rarely/never reported in NYC) – Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome – Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome – Leptospirosis – Plague – Rat-bite fever – Salmonellosis • We have more cases of reported Leptospirosis in dogs than in humans
  20. 20. How Dire is the Threat? • Not dire – rodent borne disease is rarely reported in metro New York • Most “rat bites” reported are actually interior mouse bites • Good hygiene practices can prevent most risks – wash hands thoroughly after handling soil and wash all produce prior to ingesting
  21. 21. THANK YOU!

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