I wrote a long screed about rats in January, precipitated by a stink in the anteroom between the kitchen and back porch of our apartment here in Berkeley. Here it is July, six months later. And guess what we smelled when we got home Saturday night? Yup. You got it, first guess.
Writer Leslie Larson, our down-the-street neighbor, invited her friend and fellow-author Spring Warren to write on the topic Welcome Spring (and her rats) in early April. I'd seen Leslie at a reading a couple of months before, and we'd had ourselves a chat about the rat that died in our anteroom, and rats jumping out of her compost pile in the back yard. Well, the fun has continued.
In May I found a rat on the sidewalk out front of our building. The little bugger had given up the ghost right there in the middle of everything. I got out the shovel and scooped him into the garbage bin. Didn't even flinch. I'm getting better at this...
Then I had a phone call from one of our downstairs neighbors a couple of weeks ago. They were traveling, and had just heard from their house-sitter that she walked into the bathroom and found a ginormous rat in the toilet, dead. I'd met her a few days before, she was looking for help getting onto our shared wireless network. A-- struck me as a bit high strung. Indeed, on finding the rat she left in a big big hurry, and our neighbors were calling to ask us to look after their place for a few days, until their return. Meanwhile they called our 3rd floor neighbor, who does odd jobs for our landlord, and begged him to deal with the drowned rodent rather than let the thing decay any further.
So with all that as prelude we didn't have much doubt what smelled rotten the other night. When I excavated on Sunday morning, gingerly, just like last time pulling one box or tarp at a time from the packed-in mess under the anteroom's shelves, I found just what we expected. First the long tail. Then the rest of him, kind of a little guy, a juvenile I suppose. He was lying on his belly just like the last one, looking almost alive. I assure you, however, he was thoroughly and unmistakably dead.
Out with the shovel again.
My theory (you've got to have a theory, right?) is that the unusually late and heavy rains this year have kept all kinds of things growing that feed the bottom of the food chain. There's more wildlife everywhere. In fact, I think that's probably why we saw a bobcat for the first time in thirteen years visiting Walker Creek Ranch last month, as I wrote about in Bobcat hunts gopher: a video. In the city, and Berkeley does qualify as something of a city, we have had our share of neighborhood mountain lions, but in general wildlife tilts heavily toward, well, racoons and rats.
One of these days we're going to have to figure out where the rodents are getting in, then seal up the holes. I may not get as freaked out about rats as I used to, but that doesn't mean I enjoy their company. Dead or alive.
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Bobcat hunts gopher: a video