Now that I’ve posted a happy outcome for animals living under my deck, I now have to post a sad outcome: wildlife poisoned. A rat, but he wasn’t hurting anybody. I had seen him a couple of times before, and thought him rather handsome.

A couple of weeks ago, I lifted up the most difficult boards of my deck, which I’d previously been unable to unscrew because of limited time and patience. I was having a party, and I wanted to get the deck and garden in spiffy shape. It was time. In the weeks before that, I reported on something having died under the deck. And yes, it had. Here is the first view:

Upon closer inspection, it revealed that the handsome boy rat I’d seen in my garden earlier this spring – and he was handsome! – had made his home under the boards. To the left you can see a collection of paper and plastic scraps he had used to line his nest. I find this a charming habit. When I lifted the boards above where the skunk lived, there was no such collection of “blankets.” Only rats do this, as far as I know – birds make nests only when they’re fixing to have young. Squirrels, when preparing for winter.

But in the upper corner, you can see he is not lying in state on his bed. No. And I was sad to see the decomposing body, which I buried respectfully. (I am grateful that creatures have chosen my property as the best place to die at.)

Instead, you see that he went to the other corner of his cabin under the deck for his last agonies. And agonies they were, because the turquoise staining you see at the tail end of his skeleton is not mouldy fur, as one might assume. It is the stain of a block of poison. And the little fellow ate a lot of it.

I only made the connection when my resident squirrels, unwittingly helpful creatures they are, positioned a block on top of the fence leading to my patio balcony. I wondered where that thing that looks like a rock came from until I picked it up: it was poison. I’m glad the squirrels only played with or consumed just a little of it, and left it out in the open from wherever they found it. I’ve put it in a container inside, I don’t know what for. As if I need evidence that someone has decided to “solve” a problem, as that’s how it’s been presented to us as.

A single rat in the backyard is not a problem. Nature itself takes care of “problems.” I used exclusion (a chicken wire fence) to keep the birds out of my lettuce garden when I feared losing my seedlings. I put hardware cloth under my composter, which otherwise might encourage the rodents to proliferate. I’m the only one doing this – feeding the birds, composting, gardening, fencing. Maybe more people should try doing this and get a sense of perspective, than assume that the presence of a rat is the fault of bird seed and composting and a problem worth the suffering that poison causes.


Also published on Medium.