What do Rodent Exterminators do?

Dale Marshall
Dale Marshall
Some exterminators use rat poison to eliminate rodents.
Some exterminators use rat poison to eliminate rodents.

Rodent exterminators employ a variety of substances and devices to eliminate populations of mice, rats, squirrels, possums and other such pests from residential, commercial and industrial structures and facilities. They have been certified as pest control operators by the state in which they work, with specific certification in controlling rodents, and must periodically re-certify. They generally work for exterminating companies, but also may work directly for companies such as food processing plants or agricultural facilities. Most rodent exterminators also work in other areas of pest control, such as termite fumigation or household insect control.

A brown rat.
A brown rat.

Rodents are an important part of most ecosystems, but when they interact with humans, their effect is usually destructive. Although they’re generally not dirty animals, most harbor a host of insects and bacteria that can transmit diseases to humans. Rats will eat anything people eat, as well as a great deal they won’t. They’ve learned that where people are, there’s usually a good meal to be had, saving them the trouble of foraging. Rats avoid people, but they have little fear of them, and so will often seek out nesting places near humans.

Some exterminators help rid a home or other area of raccoons and other pests.
Some exterminators help rid a home or other area of raccoons and other pests.

There are different treatments for different types of rodents, so the technician must first know what kind of pest she’s trying to eliminate. Thus, when treating a residence, rodent exterminators will first seek evidence of their presence, such as droppings, hair, and gnawed food packages, and then use that evidence to identify the specific type of rodent. Although rats and mice are usually the only rodents that will invade a house, they have very different traits and habits, and treatments are oriented accordingly. For example, rat poisons contain an emetic to induce vomiting if accidentally ingested by anything other than the target rat, because rats are physiologically incapable of regurgitating; thus, rat poison is ineffective against mice and other rodents.

Rodent exterminators often fumigate for other pests.
Rodent exterminators often fumigate for other pests.

Poison is only one of the weapons in the exterminator’s arsenal. Live-trapping rodents is another popular approach; some live traps are designed to appeal to a mouse's innate curiosity, making it easy to capture many in a single night. Glue boards are an effective trapping method in dry areas with no human or pet traffic, but they’re more costly than other forms of trapping because a glue board can be used only once, while other traps can be reset and reused.

On some occasions, rodent exterminators will find that other rodents, such as squirrels or raccoons, have taken up residence in a house. They usually nest in attics, behind walls, or in crawlspaces. Both raccoons and squirrels generally must be live-trapped because local ordinances in most jurisdictions prohibit poisoning them in a house. This is so because if they die behind the walls or in some other inaccessible place, they’ll not only create an awful stench, but they’ll pose a real health hazard for the residents. Once rodents of any sort have been eliminated from a structure, it's prudent to locate and seal all points of access, no matter how small, to prevent re-infestation.

Rodent exterminators work at one of the more unappealing jobs available. More than many other jobs, they must exercise great care in all elements of their jobs. If they mishandle or misapply the poisons they use, they may harm pets, people, or themselves. They must be extremely careful when dealing with dead rodent carcasses or when disposing of live-trapped animals, to avoid contracting a disease or becoming host to fleas or other insects. There is one major benefit to this otherwise unsavory occupation — despite the exterminator's best efforts, rodents continue to thrive in human environments, guaranteeing long-term employment for the dedicated rodent exterminator.

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    • Some exterminators use rat poison to eliminate rodents.
      By: jaggat
      Some exterminators use rat poison to eliminate rodents.
    • A brown rat.
      By: Ilia Shcherbakov
      A brown rat.
    • Some exterminators help rid a home or other area of raccoons and other pests.
      By: marburg
      Some exterminators help rid a home or other area of raccoons and other pests.
    • Rodent exterminators often fumigate for other pests.
      By: Maurizio Targhetta
      Rodent exterminators often fumigate for other pests.