20 February 2024

Craig's Rat Facts

Goodnature co-founder Craig Bond sat down for a yarn about rats with Radio New Zealand journalist Jim Mora.
Craig's Rat Facts

Five wild rat facts from our co-founder Craig Bond

Rat plagues are making headlines in New Zealand and Australia, which is a sure sign we’re heading into peak rodent season. Goodnature co-founder Craig Bond sat down for a yarn about rats with Radio New Zealand journalist Jim Mora. If you’ve ever wondered how close you are to a rat, whether peppermint oil keeps them away, and whether they’re smarter than your bait, read on.

You’re closer to a rat than you think.

According to Craig “you’re closer to a rat than you think, or you’d like to think - Victoria University studied this years ago and discovered that it’s about 25-50 metres, maybe a bit further, but we’re all really close, and if you’ve got a piece of bush beside your property you’re probably even closer. In Wellington a rat’s home territory is about half a hectare, a 70 metre by 70 metre square, so that’s a reasonable size but not huge.”

This month’s backyard rats are next month’s indoor rats.

As Craig puts it “we’ve had a nice warm winter and summer, which means there’s lots of food in our backyards, and when there’s lots of food around you’re going to see rat populations boom. I know in my garden all the trees are dropping berries at the moment, the Ngaio, the Kawakawa, the Taupata are all full of berries and seed and they’re dropping to the ground and the rats and mice are going to turn up soon in your garden to feast on all that good stuff. Then as the colder months begin those rats and mice are going to start looking for warmer places to live in our homes and garages and sheds."

Rats might be outsmarting your bait

Craig reckons rats are really savvy creatures, especially when it comes to bait. “They don’t get savvy from seeing a dead rat below the trap, what usually happens is they eat that dead rat which is a bit of a shock to some people, but they do communicate to each other about toxins and bait. What happens is they get a sub-lethal dose, so they’ll take a little nibble of it, not enough to kill them, it’ll make them sick, and then they’ll avoid that in the future.”

Warmer winters + warmer summers = lots more rats

Climate change is good news for rats, bad news for us according to Craig - “warmer winters plus warmer summers equals more food and better environments for breeding - I think that’s what we’re seeing at the moment with these rat plagues. Rats can produce up to 12 young in a litter when conditions are good, and conditions are really good right now thanks to changes in climate globally. We’ve had this really warm summer, there’s lots of food around, this is perfect rat breeding conditions. Plus rat populations have always been knocked down by cold winters, so the warmer winters we’ve been having mean those winter knock-downs aren’t happening like they used to.”

Peppermint oils won’t fix your rat problem long-term

According to Craig “like any foreign smell, a rat might avoid the smell of an essential oil like peppermint for a few days because it’s not used to it. But very quickly it would get used to that smell, and keep searching for food, so I don’t think that stuff works effectively in deterring rats over the long-term. You’ve got to trap them while they’re outside, to stop them coming inside in the first place.”

Rats like the same stuff we do - and they’ll find it all in your compost bin

Craig reckons rats are more like us then we’d like to think: “just like us rats like good shelter, good food, and good weather, so anywhere they can get those things they’ll live. Anything that’s sweet and fatty and nutritious tastes good to a rat, just like it tastes good to us. And the compost heap is the perfect place to live if you’re a rat. It’s warm, it’s full of food, it’s safe from predators, it’s a great place, so number one tip for homeowners is make sure your compost is rat-proof. Keeping them out is the key here, so you can put anything you like in your compost bin”

Our friends at Predator Free have a great guide to rat-proofing your compost bin.

Listen to the full yarn here.