Moving the bird feeders has sorted the Rat Problem- no food, no rats. I am relieved because I don't like killing things.
I was very interested in the responses to the last post. Rats clearly don't have a good standing with many people. For myself, I don't object to them, but I accept the need to control numbers. This is not because they are rats, it is because any species living here in a huge population would distort the balance of wildlife we are trying to achieve. The simplest way to reduce numbers is to reduce the resources that are available to them. Most notable of these is food.
The main strong feeling provoked by the rat pictures in my last post seemed to centre on disease, but this argument doesn't hold water when it's properly tested because rats are not alone in being vectors for disease. You can catch Wiles from moles, hedgehogs, dogs, deer and mice, for example. These things do happen from time to time, but no more than any other danger we are exposed to in life.
As many of you know, I am currently doing an Ecology degree and ecology is based on empirical evidence. I have access through my course to a large database of peer-reviewed scientific journals and have spent some time searching through them for evidence of the association between rats and disease. Of course rats do carry disease and some of it can pass to humans, but I could find no papers that proved rats are any more dangerous to us than other species. Interestingly, the majority of diseases we catch are given to us by other people.
I read one paper which was examining rats as vectors for plague in Madagascar and it concluded that while rats did spread plague, their role was equal in that to people. In other words, people spread as much plague as rats do through poor hygiene practices and living in large numbers in cramped, close quarters.
In short, there is no empirical, tested, peer-reviewed evidence to show that rats are any worse than any other wild creature when it comes to spreading disease. So why do so many people loath them? There is certainly a very deep-seated belief that they were responsible for spreading plague to humans (incorrect as we now know), they also breed fast and, where conditions are right (food, water, shelter) will form large family groups. The fact that urban rats often frequent sewers and eat rotting food and the carcasses of dead animals probably doesn't help their PR much either.
But consider for a moment if you will the case of India and its Vultures. Vultures eat rotting carcasses. In some regions of India people leave their dead out precisely so the Vultures can clean the bones. When Indian Vulture populations dropped in 2000 by 99.9% due to a Vet drug called diclofenic (an anti-inflammatory used to treat livestock which is fatal to birds), the cascading effect on the ecosystem (and that includes people by the way) was catastrophic. With no birds to clean the carcasses the number of feral dogs exploded, and with them incidents of human disease.
Although it may not be a very savoury thought to us fastidious humans (many of whom now live lives completely isolated from nature and the natural world), creatures like rats and vultures perform tasks that are indirectly essential to our own welfare, forming as they do vital links in the chains that make our ecosystems work.
In a recent lecture I attended, a scientist from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust talked about the poison burden now present in wild creatures across the ecosystem. This happens because rat poisons are also ingested by voles and mice, who are themselves prey for raptors and larger mammals. Given the inter-connectivity of all living creatures, this should be of concern to all of us.
One final thought. Did you know that 95% of laboratory animals are rats and mice? This is because they share many of our genetic, behavioural and biological characteristics. In other words, we are not so very different. Something to ponder.
Having read all of that (thank you, I know it was rather wordy but I felt it was important and interesting) I'd like to know what you think. Has it challenged your feelings towards rats and the use of poisons?
In other news, here are some Good Books I am reading at the mo. A couple of Ecology ones which make fascinating and thought-provoking reading, and one Tudor murder mystery which I'm struggling to put down :o)
Of course, instead of researching rats and the spread of disease, this is what I should be doing..... (yawn and then some, believe me).
This is what I'd much rather be doing.....:o)
Will my Angel win out on that one, or perhaps some form of compromise can be reached? :o)
I'll leave you with some pics of the Garden Birds, who have very quickly found their newly positioned feeders (we even have a Chaffinch in the garden now, first time in ages, so perhaps moving things around has been beneficial in other ways too)....
And finally, some pics of the Hounds, who are having another Quiet Day At Home as I'm still feeling below-par.
Have a lovely day, all,