Rat con­trol

With ro­den­ti­cide in­creas­ingly be­ing dis­cov­ered in the bod­ies of non-tar­get an­i­mals, Tim We­ston looks at al­ter­na­tive meth­ods we should be us­ing to tackle rat prob­lems on our shoots

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

Ioften find that I am writ­ing about best prac­tice within gamekeeping and other ar­eas of shooting sports. As game­keep­ers, we have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to keep within the law, stick to the codes and know what is con­sid­ered best prac­tice. The press don’t dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween full-time, part-time or am­a­teur keep­ers, so all of us need to know what the prin­ci­ples of best prac­tice are and we all have the same re­spon­si­bil­ity to fol­low them. Just within the next cou­ple of years, keep­ers are go­ing to be forced to look at how they set Fenn traps, snares and we have al­ready had to re­think our rat con­trol.

Across Europe, gov­ern­ments and con­ser­va­tion bod­ies have been con­cerned about the fact that more and more wildlife is be­ing found to have de­tectable lev­els of an­ti­co­ag­u­lant ro­den­ti­cide within them.

Other than rats and mice, it is illegal to tar­get wildlife with th­ese prod­ucts, and be­cause it is on a land­scape scale, the as­sump­tion must be made that the poi­son is get­ting into the non-tar­get an­i­mals by ac­ci­dent.

Barn owls were the first to show signs that things were go­ing wrong and were found to carry ro­den­ti­cide residues, but when sci­en­tists started look­ing closer they dis­cov­ered that kestrels, spar­rowhawks and even pere­grines had lev­els of ro­den­ti­cide within them which is sur­pris­ing as few of th­ese con­sume rats or house mice as a pri­mary food source and some eat birds on the wing, so some­thing was go­ing wrong. As a re­sult of this, the UK Ro­den­ti­cide Stew­ard­ship Pro­gramme was in­tro­duced in June 2015. You might have no­ticed that you are not able to buy ro­den­ti­cide now un­less you have taken one of the cour­ses that are avail­able through each sec­tor group; there is even one specif­i­cally aimed at game­keep­ers. The key mes­sage from the train­ing is that ro­den­ti­cide use should only be con­sid­ered as a last re­sort. As a game­keeper, you should con­duct an en­vi­ron­men­tal risk assess­ment and judge if you should be adding poi­son into the en­vi­ron­ment or us­ing other meth­ods. If you do de­cide to use a ro­den­ti­cide, the ob­ject is to get enough bait into key ar­eas so as to get on top of the prob­lem as quickly and as ef­fec­tively as pos­si­ble. We should never aim to use per­ma­nent bait sta­tions as th­ese in­crease the chances of ro­den­ti­cide en­ter­ing the food chain and caus­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal con­tam­i­na­tion. Con­sider us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of traps, ter­ri­ers and alu­minium phos­phide gas (which in it­self has its own dan­gers and re­quires train­ing) along with shooting be­fore you go in with the rat bait.

Shooting can be a re­ally ef­fec­tive way of con­trol­ling rats, es­pe­cially with an air ri­fle and night vi­sion scope around build­ings. I spoke to a pro­fes­sional pest con­troller re­cently who had a job on a pig farm in the Mid­lands where he was un­able to use ro­den­ti­cide be­cause of the risk of the pigs eat­ing the bod­ies of the rats and be­com­ing con­tam­i­nated them­selves, so he elected to shoot.

Over a two-week pe­riod he killed just over 10,000 rats and he showed me pho­tos to prove it. It goes to show that given time and abil­ity, you can get on top of a ro­dent prob­lem with­out go­ing straight for the poi­son.

Most full-time game­keep­ers have now been through one of the ro­den­ti­cide train­ing cour­ses and have taken on board what has been put across to them and changed some of what they do to keep them within the stew­ard­ship rules and best prac­tice, but we still need to get many of the DIY syn­di­cates on board, trained and keep­ing within best prac­tice.

Some won’t be do­ing any ro­dent con­trol, but if you have rats on the shoot, which you prob­a­bly will if you are run­ning a low ground pheas­ant or par­tridge shoot, you have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to the farm, your neigh­bours and the wildlife to keep the num­bers of rats in check.

You also have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to gamekeeping and ul­ti­mately shooting to keep within the rules of stew­ard­ship and best prac­tise and the only way to do that is to get your­self trained.

‘Con­ser­va­tion bod­ies have been con­cerned about the fact that more wildlife is be­ing found to have lev­els of ro­den­ti­cide in them’

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