The Insanity of Protecting Rats

Back in the 1980s, I have worked professionally with elements of the pest control industry providing public relations services The process of educating the public is necessary because new generations must be informed of the threats pests pose to health and property.

Back when it was still known as the National Pest Control Association, I even received a beautiful certificate of appreciation that hangs in my office. At some point several years ago, it and state organizations changed their name to “Pest Management” presumably to divest themselves of the image of actually killing the creatures that annually spread disease and do millions in property damage.

In past years, environmental organizations devoted a lot of time and money to convince the public that the real problem was the pest controllers, not the pests. If they all changed their profession next Monday, the entire nation would be totally over-run with roaches, termites, rats and mice in a month. The work is not glamorous, but it is utterly essential to society.

A case in point is bed bugs that have emerged in a few short years into a full-fledged pest problem from coast to coast. Thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency, the lack of pesticides registered to exterminate them has facilitated this new plague. There is, I believe, only one.

I have watched as the EPA has, since its founding, insanely strip pest control professionals and consumers of access to pesticides that formerly had protected their parents and grandparents, as well as their homes and businesses.

When you take away the pesticides, all you have left are the pests.

The modern pest control industry had its beginnings in the Middle Ages with the emergence of “rat catchers,” men who had developed a variety of poisons to rid homes and other properties of the ubiquitous rodent. Even the kings and queens of England had a royal rat catcher.

They were such a part of life in those times that the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin has been passed down to us. It was, of course, the combination of rats and fleas that spread the Black Plague in the Middle Ages, killing a third or more of the population of Europe.

So why, one must ask, have the burghers of Washington, D.C., responsible for passing the laws, passed the truly insane one titled the “Wildlife Protection Act” that requires pest control operators not only to capture rats in a fashion that does not harm them in any way but to transport them 25 miles away to be set free?

As Don Boys noted in a recent Canada Free Press article, “Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s attorney general, said D.C.’s new rat law is ‘crazier than fiction’ because it requires vermin not be killed but rather captured, preferably in 'families,' and transferred to a ‘wildlife rehabilitator’ ” -- presumably living in Virginia.

Here are a few facts about rats:

-- Rats have a life span of approximately nine months.

-- Rats are ready to breed within three months. Their gestation period is 22 days, and they have an average litter of eight. An average female rat will provide 20 offspring.

-- A single pair of rats has the potential, mathematically, of producing 359 million descendents in three year’s time.

-- The average overall length of a rat is 16 inches, with a body measuring 9 inches and a tail of 7 inches. The average weight of a rat is 1-1/4 pounds. Their color can range from reddish brown to black.

-- A rat’s sense of smell is excellent, as is its sense of taste. They are particularly suspicious of food. This results often in “bait shyness.” Rats will leave a poisoned bait untouched for almost a week. Other members of the pack will avoid food not eaten by other members and often warn other rats away by sprinkling it with their urine or feces.

-- Rats can gain access to virtually any structure. They can climb 15 feet up a rough, surfaced vertical wall. They can jump vertically one foot from a flat surface and they can easily traverse telephone wires and ropes. They are, in addition, good swimmers.

Virginia and other states near Washington, D.C., do not want the District’s rats. They have plenty of their own. They also have a complete host of other rodents and wildlife that require the ministrations of pest control professionals.

There are a host of very good reasons why every American city and town has extensive laws regarding the control of insect and rodent pests, as well as wildlife that includes raccoons, opossum, squirrels, turkeys, coyotes, deer and bears.

Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that rats must be killed to protect people and property, but not the members of the District Council who were more intent on protecting the rats than their constituents.

© Alan Caruba, 2012

A past contributor to these pages, Alan Caruba also posts daily commentaries at "Warning Signs" .

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