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Pest Control/Wood rats


QUESTION: Hi during the winter I noticed that something had chewed a piece of my garage door. Well then i saw a couple of wood rats running around in my garage in the next couple weeks. I never kill anything unneccesarily so i got the sonic pug in that is supposed to drive them away. It did work-it drove them outside and now i have holes in my yard and there are probably like 15 babies. I have four dogs so i am afraid of putting poison out. Should i use ammonia and peppermint oil like i read somewhere else. Should i use have a heart traps. Im at wits end.
I obviously am afraid that in the winter they are going to try to get back in. HELP-PS-i was feeding the birds outside during the winter-i have been doing this for ten years with no problems.I stopped feeding everything liek two months ago in the hope of driving these varmints off without having to kill them. I dont want to kill the quirrels and verything else so please help.

ANSWER: Given the rarity of woodrats, I am a little surprised you identified the culprits as woodrats.
Nevertheless, first you have to check with NJ wildlife officials to determine the status of woodrats. Some states protect them.

Second, repellents are useless for rats. If they worked as well as advertised, why do we have so many toxicants?

Trapping and/or toxicants are certainly potential options, but would depend on laws in NJ. Woodrats may be protected. I am a bit puzzled by your mention of holes. The allegheny woodrat (which if it was a woodrat, would be the species in your area (they only exist in Northern NJ) ) don't build burrows in the ground. So I am very interested in why you think they are wood rats.

Norway rats, however, do burrow. so I can't say a whole lot more because I have serious questions about the accuracy of the identification. It is not appropriate to be using control methods until the problem has been assessed properly.

I trust you have eliminated your feeder or modified it so it stops feeding non birds.
Details on how to do this can be found at

As for the "newness" of this problem, I can say that it is perfectly normal. Wildlife populations change, migrate as well as habitat changes and develops. today is different than 10 years ago.

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QUESTION: Steve you may be right-They are living under a tree, the roots of it and now they have burrowed tunnels and now have holes all around in the yard. MAybe they are norway rats. My dad always called them wood rats growing up. They are biiiiiig. Almost the size of a squirrel.I appreciate the advice--I looked on line and the wood rats i say have bigger heads than these i think.  They may be norways--so who do you suggest i get out?

ANSWER: Depends on your goals and concerns. Read the second link first.

Here are some links for you to read.

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QUESTION: Steve i read the two articles but again the issue is i am worried about the squirrels and chipmunks which are basically living in the same are as the rats. That paired with the fact that i have four dogs worries me immensely. Thoughts? Sorry to bother you but I want to do the right thing.

Unless you are using cage traps, the risk to chipmunks will be there. Squirrels less so.
So you are saying you have rats AND chipmunks? wow.

I think you will need to make a phone appointment with me. I am on central time. PHotos will help.  

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Stephen Vantassel


I was a professional animal damage controller. If you are having problems with squirrels, raccoons, beavers, moles, voles, etc. damaging your property, I can help give you information to resolve that damage. I was an assistant editor for Wildlife Control Technology magazine and have published numerous articles as well as two books in this field.


Former assistant editor for Wildlife Control Technology; Master's degree in Hebrew Bible (yes I am licensed minister), Past New England Director for the National Wildlife Control Operator's Association. I have published two books, The Wildlife Removal Handbook (rev. ed) and the Wildlife Damage Inspection Handbook, and numerous articles. Perhaps a highlight was making the cover of Wildlife Control Technology. I have debated a noted animal rights activist in my own state of Massachusetts on radio and TV.

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