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Reducing Rodent Numbers

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Poison Control

Tool Chest

Rodenticide is the formal name for rodent poison.

Poisoning is another effective rodent-control measure. There are many different products to choose from. Most rodenticides are anticoagulants, and cause death by internal bleeding. Warfarin was used for many years, and is still found in some products. However, many rodents are now resistant to it, so you'll also see products containing newer rodenticides, such as brodifacoum, cholorphacinone, pindone, and diphacinone. Bromethalin, one newer rodenticide, works a little differently than other substances by attacking the central nervous system. Another newer rodenticide contains cholecalciferol, or vitamin D3. It causes heart failure by creating abnormally high levels of calcium in the blood. Rodenticides come in two basic formulations: single dose or multiple dose.

Most are formulated as food-based baits and contain seeds or grain to attract their quarry. As such, pets -- especially dogs -- are also drawn to them, so it's important to place these products in areas where pets (and, of course, children) can't get at them. Putting rodenticides in bait stations (preferably tamper-resistant) is another way to keep children and pets away.

It's important to choose the right product for your needs. Some rodenticides, especially ones that contain bromethalin, are safer to use around pets than others. Some do a better job of attracting rats than mice, and vice versa. Rodenticides also come in various forms, including blocks, pellets, and seeds. Some rodents will find blocks attractive, others are attracted to seeds. It's a good idea to use some of each.

Zap 'Em

Rodent zappers, which use electricity to shock animals to death, are another time-tested rodent abatement approach. You can find these devices pretty much anywhere you'd find traps and other abatement products. They're easy to use and don't take much power as they use inexpensive batteries.

Zappers should be installed in areas where you know rodents are feeding, nesting, or gnawing. Baiting is the same as for traps. When animals enter the device to feed, they ground out the circuit. The device then delivers a fatal jolt of electricity. Many people like rodent zappers as they're painless and humane. However, they can be messy and a bit tough to clean.


If you're dealing with a severe rodent infestation, fumigation may be your only hope. This approach, typically used to control rats instead of mice, is extremely effective. However, fumigants are poison gases. As such, they are highly toxic, and should only be used if absolutely necessary. This is a job for licensed pest-control operators only, as fumigants are restricted-use products and can only be used by operators who have a fumigation license.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Common Household Disasters © 2005 by Paul Hayman and Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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