So now, this means war...
I didn't have time to take photos of their carnage, as it was a fresh assault, and they probably only had a week to dig their tunnels. I wanted to deal with it straight away. But here is the after picture, of my cleaning up their mess. This was overgrown with long grass, which gives them perfect cover, for digging their network of tunnels.
I'm fairly certain they're native bush rats, not the European variety, as we've seen them occasionally in and around our chicken coops.
They had managed to push out small rocks from our retaining wall, and even pushed over a tennis ball which was probably lost in the garden bed, filled with grass. I first noticed their work, by the giant pile of dirt underneath the wall. I had to try to fill in the holes, both above the wall and in the face of it.
It's not an aesthetic thing which worries me though, its the stability of the wall, and more importantly, when I walked on the bed above, I fell into holes as their tunnels collapsed. That's dangerous, and why they can't stay.
The rats probably started digging these fresh tunnels, after we evicted them from our crushed garden shed.
Did I forget to mention, we had a tree come down on our shed, squashing the gable and popping out the back corner? See all that grass! Perfect cover for bush rats, so a great place to build a nest, or two! It took us 5 weeks to order in a new shed, so they had that time (with us not visiting the shed at all) to set up house.
When I went to look for some paint for my recent weekend project, to rejuvenate the letterbox, that's when I heard them scuttling around. When we pulled out some of the stuff, we found a nest and smelled rat wee. The acidic nature of their wee, even started to eat away at the metal coating on our stand-up shelves.
More on our renovation rescue, in another post, but needless to say, when we evicted their nests and closed up the hole, they went looking for another abode.
So that's how I knew it was a fresh assault. That, and the fact it was fresh soil which didn't have time to dry out in the sun yet. After pulling out all the grass in the bed above the wall, and filling in the holes, I threw some prickly rose prunings, on top, as a deterent. I was fully expecting to see some digging around this morning, but no sign as yet.
I suspect it has to do with the long grass I pulled out of the bed, as it gives them cover from aerial predators (especially owls at night, when the rats are most active). I didn't waste the grass though.
It made excellent mulch for a nearby mandarin tree. I use grass and weeds for mulch, even when they've gone to seed, because its a free resource and anything which does re-grow from seed, is leggy and easily pulled. Besides, I only end up with more free mulch, if anything gets away on me.
Regarding the war on rats though, we don't intend to trap or poison. Just good old-fashioned, pushing them out of our territory. They can have the other 4 acres, just not the areas around the house we visit the most.
Strategies for deterring them includes, pulling out long grass and using our grey water to establish the plants we want to grow. These plants will probably provide them cover too, but will have matted up the soil with the fibres of their roots. Grass tends to have shallow roots they can dig under, so we want plants with more vigorous roots.
Unfortunately, they've also done damage to some of our block retaining walls too.
This is an earlier picture, when we first really used the space above the wall as a vegetable bed. Since its been mostly over grown by grass and only visited occasionally to turn the compost heap, the rats have moved in.
We won't concern ourselves with that area though, until we plan to use it again. Which we will. Right now, we need to get on top of a few projects, like fixing the shed and what to do with all those pieces of sheet metal left over.
More to come.