In the Western and Plains states, it may not be squirrels or moles wrecking havoc on your lawn. Instead, you may be battling the kangaroo rat, a small, nocturnal rodent that actually jumps around on its hind legs like a kangaroo. It can damage your lawn by building a series of tunnels and mounds in sandy or soft soil, where it hides from the heat during the day, and feasting on seeds. If you're dealing with a kangaroo rat infestation, you'll find several effective ways to get rid of these pests and protect your lawn.
Five species of kangaroo rats are considered endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The endangered species are the Fresno kangaroo rat, giant kangaroo, Morro Bay kangaroo, Stephens’ kangaroo rat and Tipton kangaroo rat. Most of these species are found in California, but you should also consult experts to help identify the species in your area if you live in southern Oregon, south central Nevada and western Arizona to ensure that you’re not dealing with an endangered kangaroo rat.
The most effective way to prevent your lawn from becoming infested with kangaroo rats is to keep them from getting into your yard in the first place. Installing a fence that is rat-proof is the best means of preventing an infestation. Kangaroo rats can usually be kept out by fencing made of 1/2-inch mesh hardware cloth. The fence should be approximately 30 to 36 inches tall, and the lower 6 inches of the fence should be bent outward and buried no less than 12 inches underground to effectively keep out the rats.
If fencing isn’t effective in keeping kangaroo rats out of your lawn, use a pesticide. Zinc phosphide bait is a pesticide federally registered for the control of several types of kangaroo rats, including the bannertail, Merriam and Ords, in noncrop areas, and poses little hazard to other wildlife or small pets. It usually comes in pellet form so it’s easy to scatter across your lawn. However, zinc phosphide must be applied by a certified applicator so you’ll need to hire a pest control company to handle the process.
When your lawn is infested with kangaroo rats, traps can be an effective way to get rid of them. Live traps are a good option if you don’t want to kill the rats since they allow you to catch the pests and release them at another location. You can bait the traps with peanut butter, oatmeal or other grains. Check live traps regularly, though, since kangaroo rats can die from exposure if they’re left in the traps for longer than six hours. Snap traps are a humane option if you want to kill the rats because the snap mechanism instantly breaks their neck. Check the traps regularly so you can remove dead rats and replace bait foods that have been eaten by insects.