In this article, we address some facts regarding rodents, rodent behavior, and their abilities and how your actions can significantly impact the battle against rodents, as well as protect your property, plant, warehouse, or facility against rodent infestation.
With this in mind, let’s think about the following:
a) Rodents are animals of prey – other animals eat them.
b) Rodents are opportunistic feeders and will utilize whatever we leave for them.
c) Rodents have an extremely flexible bone structure allowing them to get into very small openings (1/4 inch opening for a mouse, 1/2 inch opening for a rat).
d) Rodents are good jumpers and climb very well.
How do these facts translate into practical application? Let’s consider each ability and how it relates to common, everyday situations.
One of the most important things to remember about rodents (especially rats and mice) is because they are animals of prey, they will not survive well in open or “clean”, easily-visible areas, but instead thrive on areas that have a lot of “cover” and “protection”.
The way we maintain storage has a direct impact on whether we create an attractive environment for rodents or if we make the environment undesirable for migrating rodents who are searching for a nice new home (i.e. your facility).
Any storage of equipment, construction materials, tools, vehicles, trash, etc, can easily act as an encouragement to rodents by providing needed cover/protection (harborage). This protection reduces the chances of them being vulnerable to their predators.
These storage conditions should be considered an attraction to any rodents in the immediate area and once they are along the building perimeter it is just a matter of time before they will find their way into the establishment.
The proactive steps to take in the prevention of rodent attraction to your establishment can be summed up in 2 words: GOOD HOUSEKEEPING.
Do not allow storage to accumulate along the outside of your building/property. Keep shrubs, bushes, plants, and trees well manicured and “away” from the building perimeter. Keep building perimeters/fence lines free of paper, trash, debris, etc. Do not allow storage to be kept in an unorganized manner (i.e. on the ground and against the building perimeter). By keeping all exterior storage raised off the ground and at least 18 inches away from the wall, this allows for cleaning, inspection, and control practices to be performed. It also prevents rodents from getting established in these storage areas.
The same is true of vegetation. Allowing plants to grow “wild” and low to the ground will certainly provide good cover for rodents, keeping them well hidden, and creating a population at your door step that will find it’s way inside. Routine landscaping is a must for rodent prevention. The ideal situation is to create a “vegetation free” barrier of coarse gravel, from the building perimeter out two to three feet. This eliminates the potential of rodent burrowing into the soil while simultaneously creating a setting that calls attention to any improper storage against the building perimeter.
Knowing that rodents are opportunistic feeders, we should be very diligent in how and what we store outside the building as well as what the dumpster/compactor areas look like at all times. Is there spillage on the ground of the dumpster (remember what feeding the neighborhood stray does for “return visitors”). Does the compactor get inspected frequently? Are pick-ups scheduled in line with your use patterns? Is trash/debris left outside the dumpster? Is there product spillage in unloading areas, on the roof, under bird feeders, near trashcans, or around outside eating areas?
All of these situations create “open invitations for attracting rodents”. Be sure to periodically inspect the wires coming into the facility from the outside if you have an electronic compactor. Loose fitting wires, from the compactor have created many rat infestations. Remember a ½ inch space is not a large opening. Rats are good climbers and easily utilize this as a common entry point.
It is highly recommended that any facility incorporate a routine program of building/plant maintenance that includes a sealing and caulking component in their program.
A vital part of keeping rodents out of a structure is the frequent inspection and review of all exterior doors, especially bay doors. By the very nature of their design, traffic flow, as well as the frequent use that bay doors receive, makes them especially susceptible to damage and wear. Any damage or wear to the door can easily create that ¼ to ½ inch space needed for rodents to enter. Exterior doors require constant inspection to determine if there are possible entry points for rodent pests.
In close association with the bay doors is the loading dock area. Loading Docks are critical when it comes to keeping rodents (as well as birds) out of a facility. Factors that should be looked at are:
- How long are the bay doors kept open?
- Do the doors get closed immediately after receipt of stock or are they left open?
- What does the area directly outside the loading look like? Are there tall stacks of pallets against the building perimeter (an ideal harborage point for rodents that can easily carry rodent populations into the warehouse)?
- Is the dumpster close to open doors (a nice attraction to bring rodents to open doors). If so, consider moving the dumpsters across the parking lot.
- What is the area around the loading dock like? Are there trees or bushes to provide harborage for rodents?
Remember a loading dock represents a very vulnerable “opening” to a warehouse rodents can easily exploit. The cleaner or “tighter” which means the more closed a loading dock is, the more protection it has against incoming rodents. Frequent inspection is recommended.
One last thing to remember when inspecting around structures is that rodents utilize “dead storage” and get into the most unlikely things. Antique cars or old trucks used for storage, outdoor barbecues, woodpiles, decks, storage containers, cement slabs, and even dog houses, all have been utilized by rodents as harborage/breeding sites.
When performing exterior inspections for rodents we need to remember to: BOLDLY INSPECT WHERE NO ONE ELSE HAS INSPECTED BEFORE.