Thursday, July 17, 2014

To Trap A Rat

A trap of any kind is a glorious thing.  Its successful use requires planning, curiosity, cunning, and to varying extents, hatred. The trap's operator desires more than anything to stop the way his quarry moves, lives, and eats.

A rat trap is no different from any other trap.  Norway rats, imported onto this continent by accident three hundred years ago, have behavior patterns both in space and time that they obey nearly religiously.  In theory, the understanding of those patterns of behavior make it easy to trap a rat.  In reality, every trap laid by a would-be killer is a disturbance in the spatial pattern of the rats' environment.

Bait that is different from the detritus they're currently eating.   A large bait-holding platform, hidden under a wildflower just a few steps away from the rats' main trail.   Understanding rat patterning and movement will often kill a hefty number of six month old rats.  But not the helpless babies - nature's future guarantee for an ample supply of the furry vermin. And not the dominant adults in the rat pack - for they know a trap.  In my own garden I've retrieved hastily, painfully chewed off feet and tails from traps that had barely snagged the mammals.

A rat cannot help but see and smell a new trap.  The shiny varnish on the wood plates.  The clean and shiny metal snapping mechanism. But a rat can be fooled by what he thinks is familiarity - rancid bait, crawling with ants.  Metal rusted from the humid climate.  Wood dry-rotted by the Mid-Atlantic sun. The rat knows better, but allows his pride, fed by that false familiarity with the materials in front of him, to control his thoughts, his movements, and his desire.  He forgets that what he does, no matter how familiar, might have consequences he cannot bear. In that forgetfulness is the trap's beauty and strength.

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