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Residents mobilize to fight roof rats

By: Mark Moorehead

Feb. 3, 2007

A full-house turnout in south Tempe welcomed Barry Paceley, best known as the Roof Rat Guy. More than 150 people packed the room to hear tips on ridding their yards of the nasty varmints that have been moving into the area’s finely manicured neighborhoods in increasing numbers.

Paceley’s informative, hour-long presentation was punctuated with testimonials from local residents genuinely disturbed by recent discoveries in their own back yards.

Warner Ranch resident Joel Klein showed the audience a photo of an 18-inch roof rat he found dead in his swimming pool just days earlier.

Another resident, from a local gated community, reported he and his dog killed five of the seasonal invaders during the last few weeks. At least a dozen homeowners described their successful—and, in some cases, unsuccessful—battles with the unwelcome creatures of the night that have infiltrated the south end of town.

Paceley, a full time building contractor, also heads the Neighbor to Neighbor Campaign (, formed as a coalition to help control and eliminate roof rats in Phoenix’s upscale Arcadia area.

As a result of trial-and-error methods he and his neighbors employed to combat their own roof rat problems, Paceley said residents there now have a proven strategy for eradicating the rodents.

First, he suggests home-proofing and landscape clean-up.

Secondly, advised Paceley, deploy traps with the right bait, keeping the safety of pets and children in mind.

Finally, talk to immediate neighbors and share the pro-active measures you’ve taken.

Paceley insists that if neighbors don’t know there’s a problem or fail to take action, the rat problem will never go away, and likely get worse.

One of the challenges Paceley cites is the prolific pace at which rats breed. Pointing to a graph on the screen of his PowerPoint presentation, Paceley illustrated how a single female rat produces a litter in three weeks, goes into heat within 48 hours after giving birth and can conceive again. Her female pups are able to conceive in three months.

Ultimately, one adult female rat is capable of giving rise to 400 rats within a year.

“Rats have overwhelmed neighborhoods in Ahwatukee and McCormick Ranch,” said Paceley, who explained that the growing problem is due in part to a mindset of denial among residents and their unjustified fear that dissemination of information to eradicate the rat problem will negatively affect home values.

However, in Arcadia, the aggressive pursuit of the rat problem in 2001 had the opposite effect, claimed Paceley. People cleaned up their yards, removed overgrown vegetation, trimmed their trees and drove off the rats.
Paceley said the Arcadia neighborhood has never looked better, and market values continue to rise. Had they not been successful, he said, a larger-than-usual number of “For Sale” signs no doubt would have sprouted on front lawns.

According to Paceley, rat infestation is at an early stage in south Tempe, and with a little diligence and the right tools, the rats can be eliminated, he says.
Eradicating rats

At the meeting, held at Arizona Community Church, Paceley demonstrated a variety of homemade and retail devices including traditional snap traps and his own invention: a Personal Use Bait Station with recommended poison, currently available for $5.

Paceley also described what he termed “the ultimate in rat termination technology,” a so-called Rat Zapper 2000 available online for about $40 at or at Paul’s Hardware in Tempe.

For those who opt for do-it-yourself traps, Paceley provided practical tips to help avoid the pitfalls of such strategies.

For example, he said, using a classic snap trap with peanut butter as bait can result in killing birds instead of or in addition to rats.

Paceley suggests enclosing the typical snap trap in a shoe box with a hole at one end or using a Persnal Use Bait Station, also an enclosed tube, to discourage birds from entering. Plus, he adds, enclosing a trap is even more important if using effective poisons such as Just One Bite, which is available at home improvement, hardware and feed stores. Enclosed traps prevent pets from eating the poison.

There are advantages and disadvantages with each method of extermination. For example after a rat eats poison it wanders away and dies somewhere not of your choosing. On the other hand, if you use a snap trap or the RAT ZAPPER 2000 you have a rat in hand instead of two in the bush.

From a humane point of view RAT ZAPPER 2000 offers death by electrocution. Aside from being clean, quick and efficient it also alerts homeowners of the capture with a blinking red light. However, at $39.99 the ZAPPER is also 10 times as expensive as traditional snap traps which do the same job.

Reduce food, shelter
Eliminating the food source and access into the home, says Paceley, is just as important as killing the rats. Promptly removing seasonal fruit is critical.
Yet, Paceley says, contrary to popular belief, citrus is not the culprit.
“Actually, citrus has become the victim,” he explains. “A lot people will want to cut their citrus trees down while oleanders are a bigger factor with roof rats than citrus by far. In the summer time they seek harborage inside the base of the oleanders which provide cool shade and cover, mulch for bedding, and worms and grubs to eat.”

Paceley says roof rats maintain two homes: one in your attic during the winter, and one at the base of oleanders during the summer.
To keep rats out of the attic he recommends trees and bushes be trimmed back 24 inches from the roof’s edge. Screens should be placed over dryer vents, and pet doors secured at night.

“Roof rats spend 90 percent of their lives four feet above the ground or higher,” explains Paceley.

The signs
Since rats hide up in trees and shrubs, and only come out at night, they may seem invisible. But Paceley says indications of their presence include: hollowed out citrus; long, cylindrical droppings; smudge marks at openings near eaves or vents; scratching noises in the attic; or pet excitement.
Paceley is not paid by anyone or any entity for his community presentations; nor is he paid as director of his Arcadia NEIGHBOR to NEIGHBOR campaign. He volunteers his time each week for what he believes is a good cause.

As a witness to his sincerity and enthusiasm one can’t help but see him as a modern day Pied Piper, willing to show anyone who will listen how to lead the rats out of the city.


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