Now’s the time to critter-proof your property

As the warm days of September give way to October’s chilly nights, some not-so-welcome neighbors may be planning an unannounced visit. Rodents are looking for a cozy place to call home this winter, and you’ll want to make sure it’s not your attic, garage, crawl space, or wood pile.

As many as one in five suburban homes harbors rodents

And homeowners often have no clue. Besides obvious signs like droppings, look for dirt mounds near holes around your foundation, noises coming from the attic just after dusk, and smudge marks caused when rats rub their oily, dirty bodies along walls as they travel.

Roll up the welcome mat

Remove all food sources – including table scraps in compost heaps, fruit fallen from trees, bird feeders, and outdoor pet bowls.

Next, plug gaps around the house. Use quarter-inch heavy wire mesh to cover vents in the foundation and spaces under the eaves. For pipes that go through your foundation, fill gaps with concrete. Trim tree branches so they don’t make “rat highways” onto your roof.

If they’ve already set up camp

Old-fashioned wooden snap traps are still the safest, cheapest way to catch rats. Place them along walls and in corners (rats don’t like open spaces) and bait with peanut butter, dried fruit, or bacon. Think twice before using poison. It can harm children and pets, and a poisoned rat may die and decay inside your walls. Or, if the whole idea of rodent control makes you squeamish, enlist the help of a pest-control service.