Wednesday, June 5, 2013

An unexpected Hawaii night visitor

We had a surprise visitor this week.  Late one night something chewed through our upstairs screen door and entered into our bedroom.  Perhaps it was trying to get out of a sudden rainstorm, a rarity in the South Kohala desert on the Big Island.  The loud rain woke us up, but when it stopped, we quickly went to sleep again. Suddenly, we heard a strange rattling noise and we got out of bed to investigate.  The noise stopped, but it started again when we tried to go back to sleep.  

During our second investigation around the room, we noticed a hole chewed through the screen in the sliding glass door big enough for a mouse, a lizard, or a rat.   We used flash lights to look behind books and furniture, but we found nothing.  When we paused for a moment, a grey rodent suddenly ran out from its hiding place to the hole in the screen and slithered out.  After a scream and shudder, we wondered if it was alone.   We found the plastic housing of an ant bait we had put out a while ago shredded and the ant poison inside eaten. Our visitor must have been hungry, but no other rodent appeared.

After some checking, we determined that our night visitor was a Roof rat.  Roof rats are about 5 to 7 inches long with a thin tail that is longer than head and body combined. Their color varies from gray to black and they have a pointed nose, large  eyes, and big, thin ears.  Roof rats are expert climbers and can squeeze through openings that are only ½ inch wide.  The Roof rat is more common than the Norway rat or Polynesian rat in Hawaii and lives in or near houses and buildings. The house mouse in Hawaii, which is also common in houses and buildings, is much smaller.

We set out a rat trap immediately.  We have heard stories of huge rat colonies taking over empty vacation condos in Hawaii. The rats live big on the food that winter visitors leave in the cupboards when they return to the mainland.  After five days we are relieved to find no further signs of the rat or any others.  A rat invading your bedroom at night is disturbing where ever you live, but in Hawaii it is a concern because they can spread tropical diseases. So now we have rat baits next to our screen doors in case our night visitor returns.

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