The Best Techniques for Trapping Rats Outside

by | Nov 16, 2021 | Pest, Rodent Control

Rats are extremely smart. So before you try to trap rats outside, you need the best techniques that don’t teach rats to avoid your traps. Luckily, you found the page that has your answers here.

Trapping Rats Outdoors

Traps should always be part of a good IPM strategy for rat control in the garden & at home. But there is a right and wrong way to do it.

How to Trap a Rat Outside

Humans have designed thousands of different rat traps over five centuries. There’s the reliable string-and-a-5-gallon bucket trap. There are fancy new electronic rat zappers. Some catch multiple rodents at once.

But none have been the silver-bullet. Unfortunately, rats are so smart they will learn to avoid traps over time if they notice other rats trapped.

Specifically, they are able to associate the smell of the bait and feel of the trap with danger. 

For this reason, trapping rats outside should be done in a way that doesn’t teach your neighborhood rats to avoid traps.

What is the best rat trap?

The best rat trap style is a classic snap trap. Some trusted brands used by professionals are Victor, Jawz, Catchmaster & T-rex. Choose cheaper traps, so you can set more of them. The exact style of snap trap won’t matter as much as following the techniques below:

The Best Way to Catch Rats Outside

Mass trapping: set 1 trap per 15′ linear feet of fence line, under sheds, decks, shrubs, and any other area where rats are active outside. 6-12 traps is great for a typical Portland backyard. The more the better.

How to Get Rid of Rats Outside when You Have Dogs

Traps must be enclosed and secured to avoid injuring birds, raccoons, dogs, cats, skunks or opossums. Cut 2 golf-ball sized holes in a sturdy cardboard box and stake it down over the trap, or use a milk crate weighted down with a concrete block to enclose traps from wildlife & pets.

Best Bait for Rat Traps

Use a variety of bait types. Do not overload the trigger paddle with bait, 1/8 tsp of bait is plenty. To choose the best bait to trap rats outside;

Think of what the rats outside might already be eating. Are there figs or persimmons ripening and falling? Or does your neighbor feed squirrels peanuts? Your traps will work great if the rats are already comfortable with the bait you’re using.

In general high-calorie, fattening or protein rich foods like candy, chocolate, bacon, granola bars, jams, and canned meats make excellent rodent baits.

Eco-friendly Rat Control. 

How to Catch a Smart Rat that Avoids Traps

Most importantly, think of a bait type that your neighbors probably haven’t used already. Peanut butter in particular should be avoided. Because it is so widely used, the likelihood rats have already associated the smell of it with danger is greater.

Lastly, male vs. female and pregnant vs. juvenile rats have different nutritional requirements, so use both fats and protein baits in different traps or combined.

Best Way to Kill Rats Outside

Traps should be checked often. You need to remove captures as soon as possible. Then replace your traps with a different trap style, bait type, and bait station after every capture. These steps can deter rats from learning that the trap style, bait type and bait station are dangerous to them

If your rat traps outdoors aren’t catching rats anymore, assume the rats have caught on to you. Remove equipment for a minimum of 2-3 weeks. Try using a repellent product to disrupt rat behavior temporarily

Anticipate they will catch on at some point. Avoid running more than 1-2 rounds of outdoor rat mass trapping per year to prevent teaching rats to avoid traps.

What Controls Rats Naturally?

It is impossible to say exactly what controls rats and mice in the city while we’re not watching. They are difficult to study because of their elusive behavior. Realistically it’s probably some combination of rodenticides & traps, natural predation, internal competition (including cannibalism, yuck), road kills, injury, pathogens & other causes of death.

Rats that do not succumb to the natural environment after about 2 months have 7-14 babies, and the rat issue worsens exponentially.

How to Control Rats without Poison

If we want to control rats outdoors without poisons, we need to prevent them from running around and breeding out of control. There is basically no other way.

  • Eliminate any possible food source for rodents;
  • Although feeding birds & wildlife is a common household pastime, bird seed often attracts rats and mice.
  • Chicken coops should be enclosed on all sides including a floor, with quarter inch galvanized steel mesh, and allow no gaps for rodent entry. Feed should be placed inside a mouse and rodent proof coop.
  • Compost bins should also be enclosed on all sides, including bottom.
  • Harvest garden veggies and fruits regularly, and remove fallen tree nuts and fruits.
  • Enclose food storage, pet kibbles & fertilizers in the basement, shed or garage in air tight containers.
  • Reduce vegetation wherever possible, particularly within a foot or two of the ground, sides of buildings & along fence lines where mice & rodents like to hide.
  • Eliminate yard debris, wood storage & unused masonry to control rodent & pest harborage.
  • Inspect your home, garage & outbuildings regularly and seal any gaps and areas where rodent damage appears.
  • Fill any burrows found with small diameter pea gravel, and keep some on hand for when it opens back up again.

Outdoor Rat Control with Traps

By now hopefully you’ve learned some of the challenges & risks of trapping rats outdoors. Done carefully, trapping rats outside can be a part of a natural rat control strategy.

Done carelessly, it will be mostly ineffective at best. At worst, you will teach your neighborhood rat colony to avoid traps.

It is super important to follow the steps outlined above very closely. Rats cannot be excluded or repelled outdoors. And if your traps fail, bait may be your only remaining option.

Best Local Rat Exterminators

If you’re interested in a professional inspection and custom IPM strategy for rat control inside or outside, give us a call. We’ll help you avoid rats at home naturally.

Pest & Pollinator specializes in knowledgable, dynamic & ecologically responsible rodent control for Portland Oregon.

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