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Roof rats, power lines & glove compartments

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POSTED October 2, 2010 2:52 a.m.
I did a double take.

I thought I had just seen a scurrying rat using a power line as a high wire act across Yosemite Avenue.

It was at the cusp of dusk back in 1991. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me.

I looked again and watched as the rat made its way to the building next door that once housed Contel’s business offices.

I mentioned what I had witnessed to a longtime Manteca resident. He told me it wasn’t unusual at all. I had just seen a roof rat.

The creatures with beady little eyes and pointed ears live in the shadows of Manteca’s older and more established neighborhoods.

They thrive in Manteca, oddly, because they use gopher tunnels as underground subways to move about during the day. But their forte is the pitter pattering of their rat feet on power lines, fences and roof tops.

They also have interesting diets.

For the longest time I couldn’t understand why there was a ton of fruit on two grapefruit and two orange trees in the back yard that had the insides completely eaten out and the rind remaining with one gigantic hole in each. I thought it was some type of insect devouring the citrus.

But it wasn’t until I mentioned to a neighbor that our dog was killing two rats a week in the back yard that I finally realized the problem.

He asked if the citrus was being eaten on the tree. When I said it was, he said the trees were attracting neighborhood rats like a dollar smorgasbord on the Las Vegas strip lures gamblers eating on the cheap.

I had only made things worse by not topping the trees that had soared past 20 feet making it impossible to pick the citrus. The result was a virtual year-round four-star roof rat restaurant.

I solved the problem by severely topping the trees and every year stripping almost all the oranges and grapefruit off in advance of them ripening.

Rat kills in the back yard dropped to almost zero.

As much as the roof rats irked me, at least I didn’t have the problem that another neighbor had - roof rats in the attic.

Apparently once they’re in there, they can drive you crazy. The extermination companies love it because they can usually plan a trip to the French Riviera after they solve your problem.

But if you think roof rats are strictly an older Manteca neighborhood problem, guess again.

While visiting friends in the Marsh Creek neighborhood east of Highway 99 two roof rats went scurrying along a fence line and jumped into a bush in their side yard. This prompted the host to take aggressive action against the roof rats. Needless to say, the rats were quicker.

Roof rats can turn up in a lot of interesting places. For example, it’s not every day you open your glove compartment on your late model Chevrolet and find a rat.

That’s exactly what happened a few years back to one lady who lives just north of the Manteca Golf Course.

She had looked in the glove compartment after she couldn’t get her car started and was startled to find a rat. The rat was removed by an acquaintance and the tow company summoned. But at Tri-Service they discovered another rat had made its way into the glove compartment and wouldn’t work on the car until someone went and got a rat trap at Orchard Supply Hardware.

Thanks to roof rats, it is one of those things that are likely to happen to you only in Manteca.

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