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May 2019 Issue
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A good rat is a trapped rat

Photo: Matthew Cattin

Thanks to my colleague Matthew, I now have a wooden box in my garden housing a rat trap. Baited with peanut butter, it’s primed to come down hard on any rat that pokes its head in.

Unfortunately – and to the dismay of my daughter, who checks it first thing every morning – we have yet to catch a rat. Matt, on the other hand, has caught four. It’s not a competition.

In the week since we bought the trap, inspired by Matt’s story ‘Beginning the backyard battle’, my daughter has reported on our kills. It’s always the same: “It’s empty!” (Though one day she said “Ants! There are ants in the trap!” It seems they like peanut butter, too.)

In truth, I don’t expect to catch many rats. We live next door to the local primary school which has also been running a trapping operation, eliminating 16 rats from the area in the past few months.

Our trap increases the buffer slightly. It also gives my daughter a chance to participate in predator control herself. I hope her participation now will lead to a lifetime of committed backyard rat trapping. For that to happen, we probably need to catch at least one. So I’m considering borrowing Matt’s next kill to put in our trap. That’ll keep her motivated.

It’s essential she gets into it if the Predator Free 2050 goal is to have any chance of success. It’s no good relying on others to eliminate rats, possums and other bird-munching predators from the country. One rat in one garden can undo all the hard work. And with a mega-mast seeding event occurring right now, there will soon be more rats than ever.

And trapping works. We’ve been the beneficiaries of the school’s rat-catching efforts with tui, fantail/piwakawaka and even silver eye visiting our garden. It makes a change from the doves, sparrows and mynas we’re used to.

Matt’s done his bit and we’re trying to do ours. Have you done yours?