There has been a major influx of rats on the Chayne over the past forty-eight hours. Not that those pink fingered demons have come from anywhere in particular – they’ve probably been on the farm all summer and now that food is getting scarce they are becoming more and more conspicuous. I trapped one in a Mk.6 Fenn right out in the middle of the moor near to where I cut peat in August. It was a whopping great brute, but it was out in open country almost two miles from the nearest human habitation. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me, but I have a tendency to imagine that rats depend on human beings for their living, and that heading out into the “wild” and away from “civilisation” would be an odd move for them.
There was rat shit strewn across the shed where we keep the feed for the hens and birds, and it suddenly seemed fairly logical that we have recently been visited by a friendly barn owl. I like lying in bed at night time and listening to that old rasping wheeze, but I must admit that I’m less fond out going out to feed the ferrets and coming eye to eye with an owl sitting on the rafters at almost precisely head-height. I’m glad he’s on patrol, and he works with my blessing. Some rats are on the verge of being too big for barn owls to kill, but a normally sized brown rat is fair game for an owl. I’ve seen it happen once or twice in various places, but I’d certainly like to see that owl take on one of my rats –
I set about making a trap box to go inside the partridge pen where some disturbed soil has made me wonder whether there are visitors in the game cover. I stepped into the pen and felt the soil give away beneath the soles of my (brand new and very satisfactory, thanks for asking) wellies. The wet ground had become a honeycomb of rat runs, and as if to emphasise the point, two slick, sweating shapes burst out from the ground and ran for cover. One wriggled easily under the bottom of the pen section, but the other was too big and there was a horrible moment when it clutched little fistfuls of damp soil in its dirty pink fingers and threw them back behind it in an attempt to dig its way to a narrow escape. Its nasty tail was as straight and as stiff as a knitting needle, and it whisked it back and forth in the excitement of the scrape it had found itself in. I was about to test the soles of my my new wellies with a sudden, abrupt stamping movement when the matted body wriggled free and tumbled away into the dying grass outside the pen.
Something must be done. I’m reluctant to deal with poisons, even though I know that they are probably the best way of sorting the problem out. I know a man with terriers and I have ferrets. I’m trying to see the silver lining of an otherwise pretty disgusting cloud.