Tag Archives: Rattus norvegicus

RATS, RATS, AND MORE RATS! SNOWY OWL HEDWIG WEEKEND UPDATE #2 -By Kim Smith

Hedwig was observed Saturday morning, when repeated harassment by a flock of crows sent her hiding. She reappeared Saturday afternoon, and was again seen Sunday morning in the drizzle, not too far from where she was perched Saturday evening. Later Sunday afternoon she slept and rested in the pouring rain.

Hedwig sleeping in the rain (thank you to Arly Pett for letting me know she was out in the rain!)

That she stays in a highly localized winter territory seems in keeping with known Snowy Owl behavior traits. I read that during the summer season in the Arctic, male Snowies hunt over hundreds of miles, whereas female Snowies typically hunt within a much smaller range. She has been observed eating sea ducks and rabbits and there are plenty of rat holes along the backshore rocks.

Both rats and lemmings (the Snowies super food in the Arctic) belong to the order Rodentia. From wiki, “A lemming is a small rodent usually found in or near the Arctic in tundra biomes. Lemmings are subnivean animals. They make up the subfamily Arcicolinae together with voles and muskrats which forms part of the superfamily Muroidea which also includes rats, mice, hamsters, and gerbils.”

Lemming (Lemmini)

Often Hedwig has been seen flying straight out over the water towards Twin Lights. I wondered, if she is hunting there, does Thacher Island have a rat population. Thacher Island Association president Paul St. Germain answers that question for our readers, 

“Hi Kim, there are lots of rats on Thacher mostly in the shore line rocks. We don’t see them often but know they are there. I discovered a bunch in the cellar of the keeper house making their nest in an old tarp. I would love to see Hedwig out there but we don’t go out in the winter. Have never seen snowy owls in the summer.” 

Great info and thanks to Paul for sharing that! A Snowy Owl has been seen on the rocks in Rockport, across the strait, opposite Twin Lights, and wonder if it is our Hedwig.

Rat and Lemming photos courtesy wiki commons media

This brings up the topic, what to do if you have a rat problem. The absolute worst way to control rats is with rat poison, namely for the sake of beautiful predatory birds such as Snowy Owls, falcons, hawks, and eagles. Birds that ingest rats that have been poisoned with rat poison will generally become gravely ill and die. Secondly, it is a cruel, slow death for the rat. They will usually go back to their nest to die. If that nest is located behind a wall in your home, you will smell that unmistakeable horrendous smell for many months. Thirdly, rat poison is only 60 percent effective. I wonder if the rats that survive rat poison will go on to breed super rats.

The best way to avoid having to kill a rat is to make sure they cannot gain access to your home or business by regularly inspecting soffits and woodwork for holes. Old-fashioned snap traps and live trapping continue to be the most effective way to rid your home or business of rats.

Saturday I stopped to say hello to a group of birders flocked together along the backshore who had traveled all the way from western Mass. They were observing Grebes, Buffleheads, and a Common Murre. And a Puffin had been spotted! I asked if they were planning to go to any of our local restaurants for lunch, but they had packed lunches. One Mom shared that an expert from Audubon told the group that there were at least a “dozen Snowy Owls” on Bass Rocks. Bananas! I have to say that it makes me hoppin’ mad when folks spread misinformation about our local wildlife. I gently told her that no, there were not a dozen owls, but that if she and her group waited until late afternoon, they might catch sight of Hedwig.

Twin Lights from a Snowy Owl POV

 

 

 

 

 

Cannibal Rat Ghost Ship Adrift

o-RAT-570What happens to a rat-infested abandoned ship? The rats eat each other. The last rat standing eats itself. Or so they say.

LYUBOV_ORLOVA__1897491aI’m sure you have read about the Lyubov Orlova, which over a year ago was abandoned in Newfoundland because of a dispute over debts. On its tow to a salvage yard in the Dominican Republic, the ship broke free and became adrift. At first it was thought to be heading towards the British Isles however, it is now widely believed to have sunk. The most recent reports suggest that rats cannot live more than five days without water.

This story had me thinking about rats in general and rats along Gloucester’s waterfront, which in turn led to thinking about one of the many reasons why I love cats.

B_Image_4344The Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), also known as the brown rat, sewer rat, common rat, and myriad other terms of non-endearment, is native to northern China. The species found its way to Eastern Europe by the early eighteenth century. By the year 1800, they occurred in every European country. First sightings of  R. norvegicus in the New World were reported in the 1770′s as ship stowaways.

orlova004b

During the Middle Ages cats were reviled and killed en masse. In the few regions where cats were not killed there were far less fatalities from the pandemic Black Death, which killed roughly half the population of Europe. Had this fear of cats not existed, populations of the Black Rat (Rattus rattus) would have been minimized, lessening the spread of plague infected fleas, carried by rats.

Rats are one of the world’s most successful mammals, second only to humans. They live everywhere except Antarctica.

Rattus_norvegicusRattus norvegicus

All images courtesy google image search.

Lutefisk


Good Morning Gloucester FOB Al Bezanson wrote a very funny response to my post of several days ago, Mystery of the Disappearing Soap, which if you don’t read the GMG comment thread, you would have missed.  Al’s response, “It is undoubtedly a Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus). Only creatures with ethnic roots from that region take pleasure in dining on soap. I know this because I have visited that country and had the experience of eating lutefisk. Be warned — we are approaching the season when you may be offered this delicacy.”

Never having had the occasion to try lutefisk, I wanted to know more about it but, after reading only the wiki article, needless to say I don’t think I ever will.

From wiki “Lutefisk is made from aged stockfish (air-dried whitefish) or dried/salted whitefish (klippfisk) and lye (lut). It is gelatinous in texture, and has an extremely strong, pungent odor. Its name literally means “lye fish.”

The process is described further:

“The first treatment is to soak the stockfish in cold water for five to six days (with the water changed daily). The saturated stockfish is then soaked in an unchanged solution of cold water and lye for an additional two days. The fish swells during this soaking, and its protein content decreases by more than 50 percent producing a jelly-like consistency. When this treatment is finished, the fish (saturated with lye) has a pH value of 11–12 and is therefore caustic. To make the fish edible, a final treatment of yet another four to six days of soaking in cold water (also changed daily) is needed. Eventually, the lutefisk is ready to be cooked.”

I can’t resist including several of Garrison Keillor’s hysterical comments on lutefisk, also found in the same wiki article:

“Every Advent we entered the purgatory of lutefisk, a repulsive gelatinous fishlike dish that tasted of soap and gave off an odor that would gag a goat. We did this in honor of Norwegian ancestors, much as if survivors of a famine might celebrate their deliverance by feasting on elm bark. I always felt the cold creeps as Advent approached, knowing that this dread delicacy would be put before me and I’d be told, “Just have a little.” Eating a little was like vomiting a little, just as bad as a lot.”

and

“Lutefisk is cod that has been dried in a lye solution. It looks like the desiccated cadavers of squirrels run over by trucks, but after it is soaked and reconstituted and the lye is washed out and it’s cooked, it looks more fish-related, though with lutefisk, the window of success is small. It can be tasty, but the statistics aren’t on your side. It is the hereditary delicacy of Swedes and Norwegians who serve it around the holidays, in memory of their ancestors, who ate it because they were poor. Most lutefisk is not edible by normal people. It is reminiscent of the afterbirth of a dog or the world’s largest chunk of phlegm.

This morning Al posted a more detailed account of his experience with lutefisk.

“As sleuth David Simmons pointed out those tooth marks suggest mouse, but until this case is concluded I would at least maintain Rattus norvegicus as a critter of interest. Perhaps I was a bit hasty in assigning the blame. Who knows, r n may have actually decided to immigrate to the New World to escape Viking cuisine.

In connection with this I will relate how I came to know about lutefisk. It was 1966, at the Grand Hotel in Tromso, and following the customary social hour, or two, I sat down to dine with a local fellow. I had been poking about the country for several weeks on fishery matters and fancied myself to be quite knowledgeable about seafood. He took the cue and ordered up a lutefisk dinner for me. I’ll say that Garrison Keillor was spot on with his descriptions of this delicacy. While I waited for my substitute entrée Lars told of the recipes used by backyard lutefisk makers. Old bathtubs were in demand for the process and I thought he said soaking times were measured in months, not days. This is all vivid in my memory – perhaps in the same part of my brain that stores details of where I happened to be at the time of catastrophic events.

And Fred – thanks for your invitation – Phyllis and I will be paying you a visit.”

My note: The Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), also known as the brown rat, is native to northern China. The species found its way to Eastern Europe by the early eighteenth century. By the year 1800, they occurred in every European country. First sightings of    R. norvegicus in the New World occur in the 1770’s as ship stowaways. Today, Norway rats can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

Images courtesy google image search