Building the Better Rat (and Mongoose) Trap

Make it a Rat-Free Christmas this year

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The old trope about building a better mouse trap is something that we’ve all heard–probably more often than not.

This time around, it has a bit more currency.

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In my case finding a better rat trap was of more than passing interest. It starts with the disappearance of Penguin, my cat. Cats are probably the best rodent deterrent around but if they disappear or find greener pastures, suddenly you’re quite vulnerable to rapacious rodents. This often includes the fruit you grow–dragon fruit, avocado, papaya and the list goes on.

What to do?

You consult your #1 rodent expert, Shawn Woods whose Mousetrap Monday YouTube channel has 1.9+ million subscribers.  There’s a good reason for that. He offers objective, down-to-earth commentary on pest control products and provides recommendations. Shawn often reviews products (and offers exposure to mom-and-pop businesses) that you might not otherwise hear about.

As a business writer, I like those kinds of stories.

A case and point is the Uhlik Repeater Trap, manufactured by Prairie Road Iron Works, a Linn, Kansas-based metal fabrication company company founded by Todd Ohlde. Todd told me he didn’t think he would ever be in the “rat trap business”, but as the saying goes, you never know. However, he found a product that was too good to pass up.

He explained that the trap was invented by an “older gentleman”, an inventor who could barely keep up with orders. Mr. Ohlde saw the opportunity, seized the moment and purchased the patent.

Mr. Woods, the YouTube pest control expert, who is not often prone to hyperbole, stated on his video (see below) that this was “The Best Rat Trap I Have Ever Tested.”

In my experience would rephrase that comment and say the Uhlik Repeater Trap is also the “best mongoose trap I have ever tested”. (More on that later).

I needed to act.

Keep in mind, rats are not just a nuisance.

According to a recent Washington Post story, “Scientists warn invasive pests are taking a staggering toll on society“, they are the most widespread invasive animal in the world. Not only have they made their way into dense cities (like Honolulu) but onto far-flung islands where they have decimated ground-nesting seabirds and other animals. “The impact of land-dwelling rats on islands is so profound, said the article,” that even nearby reef fish can feel it after the rodents alter the flow of nutrients into the ocean.”

The rats were also destroying my dragon fruit at an alarming rate. When you combine no cat with a very hot dry summer (and presumably very little rodent food out there) the rats had become ravenous. They were even consuming green fruit, a “practice” I’d never witnessed before.

So it was time to strike back.

I ordered the trop. The box came in from UPS and it was pretty darn big, 15” x 31”, weighing in at 33 lbs. Compared to an average rat trap, this was the size of a White Freightliner. But then again, there are a lot of rats where I live, on the edge of Palolo Valley.

You can watch the assembly process here

The package contains the following components: (1) Holding Cage, (2) Transfer Cage, (3) Trap Top, (4) Critter Guard, (5) Stop Rod, (6) Self Tap Screws. It also comes with 1.25 pounds of rat bait, containing four different grains and seeds that Todd Ohlde insists “are known to entice rats”.

It does take a little assembly but all you need is a socket wrench with 1/4” and 5/16” nut sockets. Just add (14 in all) metal screws that are provided in the kit. No big deal. There are written instructions provided as well or you can read them on the Uhlik web site.

Using the trap

So, you’ve assembled the trap? Then what?

First off, if you watch the video, you’ll note that the trap is humane. I wasn’t a big fan of poison and trapping them seemed to be the best option. They essentially drop down from a trap door type arrangement and plop themselves into a holding cage. Getting them to do this is the trick.

The first step in setting the trap is to secure a the little “stop rod” which prevents the trap door from dropping.

Why?

Learning how to bait the trap is a big deal

You want the rats to feel comfortable with the device. They need to be familiar with the trap door. You’ll need to sprinkle seeds or what ever bait you have on the door and add extra bait to the little bin. Rats are smart and inherently leery creatures, so they need to get used to their environs and feel relaxed about eating the seeds on top of the trap door.

This make take up to 5 days or so. Once you see seeds disappearing from the feeding area, you’ll know the rodents are getting comfortable so you can remove the bar and set the stage for them to drop into the cage.

I suggest watching Mr. Ohlde’s video which discusses how to bait the trap:

My advice is to be patient. The first night I set the trap I couldn’t get them to feed at all. I placed little wooden ramps for them, as suggested by Todd. The kit provides a “transfer” cage that so you can dispose of the culprits (maybe let them go). You can watch this video which illustrates this process. (He warns against “liquidating” the rats inside the main cage. Any rat blood shed in the main cage would deter them from getting near the trap).

It proved to be effective with rats but I found an even better mission…

Mongoose Beware

Small Asian Mongoose. Modified from Peter Kraayvanger, 2016, Pixabay. Public Domain

As eluded to above my intention for acquiring the trap was to liquidate rats. However, the equation changed when I acquired a new a cat. A barn cat to be exact, a semi-feral feline that loves to hunt.

While getting her accustomed to her new surroundings I set aside food in the backyard. Before she could even get to it the cat food seemed to disappear. I didn’t see other cats around nor did the birds seem interested.

What I did see sneaking away from the bowl however, was a mongoose.

Originally from Asia the mongoose is ubiquitous on my home island of Oahu as well as Hawai’i Island (aka; The Big Island), Maui, and Molokai. Although “cute” from afar, they are fierce little creatures that were introduced on the islands to cull rats. The mongoose is known for its ability to kill venomous snakes, especially cobras. Yeah cobras. Yikes. Evidently they are immune to cobra venom. Their thick coats and lightning reactions make them potent cobra adversaries.

Unfortunately mongoose didn’t work out too well as rat exterminators. The mongoose are diurnal and rats nocturnal.

To make matters worse, they prey on native Hawaiian birds.

The Small Asian Mongoose (Herpestes javaicus) inhabits areas of Iran, India, Vietnam,, and several other Asian countries. The species traveled to the United States as a result of human interaction and now occupies much of Hawaii. Map data courtesy of IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0. Map modified from NuclearVacuum, Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

Chickens were the final straw

That brings us to a turning point in the story. Not only were the mongoose (a family of them as it turned out) consuming my cat’s food at a rapid pace but had the nerve to attack my neighbor’s chickens.

Thus I had to change the order of battle.

I didn’t know much about mongoose behavior but Ray (the guy with the chickens) had done some homework. He suggested using sardines as bait. But would the Uhlk rat trap snare a mongoose? It was certainly worth a try.

I followed the Uhlik protocols which means putting out bait (as mentioned above) without setting the trap. I placed a sardines on the trap and once my furry friends discovered it, sardines disappeared like clockwork. Once they were comfortable with the gear, I removed the bar to allows the trap door to drop.

The sardines were gone but I had no mongoose to show for it.

These Mongoose are trapped like…rats. Was able to capture a total of four in two days. (Rob Kay)

I played around with the trap, only to realize the animals were not tripping the lever that releases the trap door. Thus the technique that worked splendidly for catching rats wasn’t going to work for the equally smart, incorrigible mongoose.

A little more tweaking was in order.

The solution was simple. I took a chopstick and jimmied the lever open so that the trapdoor behaved more like a teeter totter. (Remember those?)

Guess what?

My theory worked. By placing a sardine at the edge of the right spot, the weight of the mongoose would cause the trapdoor to tip just like a teeter totter and the nasty little critter would slip right into the cage below.

Then the mongoose did the work for me. Once trapped it would howl and guess what? Another member of the nuclear family showed up in the trap. In one afternoon I had three of the rascals.

I had no idea I would be in the mongoose trapping business but I’m happy to say the Uhlik Repeater Trap is doing double duty in the Aloha State. At $240 it’s an investment that you’ll want to pass on to the next generation.

Most importantly my neighbor’s chickens (and my dragonfruit) are safe–at least for the time being.

Rob Kay writes about consumer technology for the Honolulu Star Advertiser and Hawaii Reporter.

That’s the theory and it worked.

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