Using IPM to Control Rodents- (Part 1 continued)

Using IPM to Control Rodents- (Part 1 continued)

This is the second part of my article about rodent control options that avoid the use of rat poisons. (Click here for part one.) Research is showing wildlife, pets and sometimes humans are suffering negative effects in particular from the stronger second-generation rodenticides. Gerry Miller, who worked years in pest control for both the state of California and Tulare County, provides some answers from his experience.Q: What about using traps, which kills the rodent without the use of poisons?

A: I like trapping because you know you got the critter, are able to determine sex, age, and condition which gives you a clue as to your infestation. But not everyone is that interested nor do they have the time, patience, or the knowledge. Some people for a world of reasons are physically unable to “set” the trap or they don’t want to get close to a dead critter in a trap.

(This is an aside by me: I’m against glue boards since they cause immeasurable suffering and they don’t discriminate in what they trap. Gerry agrees.)

Q: What about plant selection and irrigation. That’s important in preventing pests – what about for rodent control?

A: Choices of plants used in landscaping and their placement in proximity to the structure is an important in the overall integrated pest management (IPM) strategy. If you plant dense plants that provide rodents with shelter they will come. Dense plants right up to doors and windows encourages rodents to hang out close by and eventually they come in.


Q: Can you share some examples of how IPM helped a rodent situation? 

This baby owl recently fledged near our home and should help take care of our rodents.

This baby owl recently fledged near our home and should help take care of our rodents.

A: A very famous winery in southern California had a big problem with pocket gophers in their vineyards. They had rolled out a “green” marketing campaign, complete with a native raptor on their labels, after taking the time and expense to construct raptor perches and owl boxes. But the vines continued to be gnawed by gophers. The expanding population of gophers invited coyotes to feast, which also gnawed on their drip irrigation, furthering damage to the vineyards. I found evidence under the owl boxes that the owls were consuming the rodents. However, the row spacing of the vines was narrower than the wingspan of the available raptors, so raptors were hunting the open ground off-site around the vineyard and taking them back to eat at their boxes. The problem was solved with one, let me restate, one mechanical underground application of a registered strychnine rodenticide with all carcasses picked up and buried…the vineyard folks surveyed and continued to watch for any carcasses which were disposed of properly. The timing was critical – we had scheduled the single application after some trapping surveys, which told us the young ones were of an age where they were leaving their birthing burrows.  Once the elevated population was knocked down, other cultural methods and trapping was used to keep the population at a manageable level.

Another example that demonstrates a very simple solution was with the protected raven…. not a rodent but the issues are the same. I was called to help the government and B-2 bomber contractor North American Rockwell on various critter issues. One especially troubling issue was the federally protected ravens were destroying the windshield wipers on specially made refueling vehicles.  Apparently they had tried many bird scaring devices, owls, noises, and the like and I assume that a depredation permit could have been obtained and the offending ravens eliminated. My evaluation determined that in reality only the white painted refueling vehicles were getting damaged, while the green vehicles were spared. I observed that the sun’s brightness from the south was reflecting through the front and rear windows of the white trucks and causing a reflection on the windshield. The raven’s were standing on the wipers and pecking at the bright reflection. I told them to turn the vehicles around to face north so the sun doesn’t shine through the windows. Problem solved…no lives lost.


Q: How do people find integrated pest management professionals who will look at a comprehensive approach to your problem?

A: Here is a link from UC Cooperative Extension on how to choose a pest control operator (PCO)

For more info:

Poisons Used to Kill Rodents Have Safer Alternatives | Audubon Magazine

Pests in Gardens and Landscapes: Vertebrate Pests—UC IPM

Rat Management Guidelines–UC IPM



About Linda Richards

My goal is to educate about the science of nature in layperson speak, through my writing, science and education background. I grew up in the Chicago area, loved living in Minneapolis before gravitating to the West, which is now home.


  1. George Barnett says:

    Hi, Linda. The poison pellets don’t go well when you have free range chickens like our Rhode Island Reds; or if you feed all the wild songbirds – which we do. I bait for rats and mice in self-contained, disposable traps, and I cage trap unwelcome critters like rabbits and squirrels, and haul them to the tail end of wast Alpine Boulevard for release. We’ve converted the once lush “New England” grassed back yard into a veggie garden, chicken coop, garden shed, mulch piles and all. We’ve become “landed gentry”???? Or Alpine Hillbillies!!!! By the way, the other evening we saw a hawk come in from west to east at high speed and grab a finch on the fly right off the thistle seed sack feeder, and kept on going on up the valley. It took about 20 miniutes before any of the other finches returned to feeding. Say high to Tom.

  2. Great part 2! We love the stories Gerry shared about the winery & North American Rockwell.

    We agree with you and Gerry, we are absolutely against the use of glue boards. But, as George points out self contained traps are definitely a great way to go. We would absolutely support the use of raptors, but I don’t think that the birds would be too keen to stick around the urban surroundings we have here in San Jose.

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