Thursday, February 01, 2007

Rat Stories

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... Life In Bolivia... Life In Missouri... More About Birds and Animals... Some Interesting News...

I read an interesting article about rats in Anchorage, Alaska. No rats are allowed in Anchorage. If a rat is sighted, it's tracked down and killed. Even pet rats are illegal.

"Anchorage is the only certified rat-free port in the world that we know of," said Ramone Wallace, an environmental specialist with the city health department. "We don't want rats in Anchorage."

Source: "Anchorage airport rat pack down by two" by Katie Pesznecker, Anchorage Daily News, February 1, 2007.

My husband will be interested in this article because he despises rats. When he saw them in the barn when he was a kid, they scared him. His family lived just a few miles from the Missouri River and the river-bottoms industrial area in Independence, Missouri (greater Kansas City, MO). Dennis says the rats were extra big, and I don't doubt that they were.

When we lived in Bolivia, he went in the bathroom one morning and found a rat swimming in the commode. He slammed down the lid and yelled, "There's a rat in the toilet. What shall I do?" "Flush the toilet," I yelled back, and so he did, about 20 times. I refused to go near the bathroom, but after a time, Dennis did lift the lid cautiously and peek inside. The rat was gone, presumably down the drain from whence it came. Its memory inspired a degree of caution in us, as you can imagine.
Dennis says that the rats were everywhere at Camp Doha in Kuwait. The story he heard was that the base had a huge population of stray cats and the commander didn't like it. He had the cats exterminated or otherwise removed, and soon there was a huge population of rats that the cats had previously kept under control.

I have seen twice seen a rat in Kentucky. One time when I went on a school picnic with Isaac's class, there was a white rat running around under the picnic tables at the far end of the shelter. He was picking up food scraps in his little paws and eating it, and the kids thought he was really cute. I thought he was too close for comfort. I wondered if he was a pet rat that had been released. He wasn't scared of people at all.

The other time I saw a wild rat, I didn't see all of him. I just saw his white head and his pink tail which Skittles left lying by the front step. Presumably she ate the rest of him. I couldn't believe how big his head and tail were -- Skittles surely had quite a battle with him. I have convinced myself that she caught him around our neighbor's barns, where there is corn, cattle feed, etc. that a rat would like.

I have just one wildlife guide -- Reader's Digest North American Wildlife, edited by Susan J. Wernert published in Pleasantville, NY and copyrighted in 1982. It says that there are several species of rats in this part of Kentucky. They include the Hispid cotton rat, the Norway rat ("the world's most destructive mammal," according to the guide), the eastern woodrat and the marsh rice rat. None of these rats are nearly as white as the rat head that Skittles left on the doorstep, but maybe it was a some other woodrat subspecies.

The big rats Dennis saw as a child were probably Norway rats, but he says that the rats he saw in Kuwait were the biggest rats he's ever seen. They had long brown hair, and he called them "Fred" because he got to know them so well. (Dennis-type humor, here.)

When I told my brother about the rat that Skittles caught, he talked about working in grain fields late at night in Missouri. He was amazed at the hundreds of rats that he saw in the headlights. Maybe those rats were Hispid cotton rats which my book says are common in farmlands and a serious agricultural pest. There is documentation of up to 500 rats per acre in heavily infested fields.

The behavior of the eastern woodrat seems to be more benign. "Adult woodrats feed on fruit, seeds, and nuts, and do man no economic harm, although some people dislike them merely because of their name and appearance." (Quoted from the above-cited Readers Digest book.)

The marsh rice rats swim as easily as they run around on land. Something like a marsh rice rat was swimming around in the toilet that morning in Bolivia when Dennis had such a shock. I suppose it was a Bolivian species, though.


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What do you think about rats? Do you have any rat stories?


Collagemama said...

Oh, no! I'll be having Kuwaiti rat nightmares tonight.

You need a blog warning system: Blink-blink-blink! The post you are about to read features giant rodents! Be afraid. Be VERY afraid.

Anonymous said...

That is stupid, rats are wonderful animals. They are some of the best pets you can get, smart, with great personalities, and loving as any dog you will ever find

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