Pest Control/Rats and pest control companies
Happy Holidays! As a special present, we heard scratching coming from one of our kitchen drawers. This morning we found what I believe to be a rat dropping. Some weeks ago we found a nest in the back of that drawer: it was a mass of leaves, twigs, and bits of paper. We're not sure how they're getting in.
What's the appropriate way to handle this? Should I simply set traps inside the drawer, or is that only a very temporary measure? I'd call a pest control company, but I get the feeling many tend to take advantage. I can't afford $700-1500 for a "program." How can I tell if the company I hire is honest and reasonable? The big ones are very expensive; the small ones often seem untrustworthy and unskilled. I'm sure there are reputable and reliable companies out there, but how do I know?
Your letter raises two questions: DIY or hire it done by a company? If I hire a company, how do I choose a reputable firm?
So, if you're to do it yourself, you need to know whether you are dealing with rats or mice (they are fought a bit differently). It is unusual to find only a single dropping from either animal - most often you'll find several droppings in one place. Size and shape of the dropping will tell you much, and there are various areas of the web with good descriptions of their scat.
Also, in dealing with rodents - one of the first steps in an overall elimination program will be to find out how the devil they're getting into the home. Both critters need very, very small openings to gain access - so ALL openings bigger than say, a dime need to be sealed. Once you've eliminated the access points, any rodents still inside the home can be taken out with traps or poison - dependent on a few different factors (presence of kids or pets, is "the drawer"in a food processing area like the kitchen, or is it in a bedroom, etc). There are several things a good pest control company must consider when planning a rodent job. I can't speak to the charges you must incur in your area - but I've always found that because the amount of time fighting rodents varies so much, we never had a set price for rodent service, we simply charged our hourly rate for as long as it took. Some situations could be handled with one stop on one day, but the majority of rodent work had to be done over the course of several different days. (A lot of it was also dependent on how well the customer worked with us to solve the problem - such as sealing up entry ways, keeping sanitary conditions in and around the structure, etc.)
As to your question about finding a reputable firm in this business... Pretty much every State in the Union has one or more professional organizations devoted to the pest management business. There is also a "university extension" network established in most, if not all, States. Either the industry group or the educational facility should offer some suggestions on reputable companies in your area.
If it were me in your shoes, I'd contact the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) for affiliated pest management companies in your area and go from there. Get proposals (both how they plan to do it, and how much it will cost) from at least three companies to help you make a decision. If you want, write back and tell me what they said, and I'll give you an unbiased second opinion.
Hope this helps,