The house of the bloody tail drags


July 1, 2022

Photo: Rudy Ayala, ACE

The bloody rub marks are in that position because a box had been stored there. Photo: Rudy Ayala, ACE

BUILDING TYPE: A farmhouse on a substantial piece of land
LOCATION: Rural Ojai, Calif.
THE HORRORS: Rodents just seemed to leave a trail of diluted blood, although there were zero signs of distress or suffering.

Nearly a decade ago, I took over a rodent account from a colleague who was too scared to continue, and I soon learned why. The house had some rodent pest pressure — a combination of roof rats, deer mice and ground squirrels — and all of them left behind diluted blood as they wandered about, their tails dragging the blood. We could only guess it was in their urine. At first, I thought it might be something they were eating; I looked all over the property for some sort of unusual tree or plant that might leave a stain in urine or droppings. But there was nothing unusual on the property.

Photo: Rudy Ayala, ACE

The rodents traveled across some stacked floor tiles. Photo: Rudy Ayala, ACE

The three types of rodents can become territorial with each other, but I didn’t see any signs of fighting. Just a rusty red in some (not all) of their droppings, and blood smears mixed in with their urine and sebum. It stumped rodent experts like (Pest Management Professional Hall of Famer) Dr. Bobby Corrigan and Dr. Niamh Quinn.

I knocked on the neighbors’ doors, although the houses were fairly far apart. Had anyone used an old rodenticide? No one had any pest problems. However, since then, I’ve come across similar rodents in homes within a mile of this house.

The rodents were of all genders and ages, and seemed healthy otherwise. I mean, we’re talking about opening your silverware drawer and seeing a streak of blood across all your utensils. It was definitely unnerving, and I felt bad for the homeowner.

Rudy Ayala

Rudy Ayala, ACE

I was a little worried about zoonotic transmission, but my customer was perfectly healthy and she was living there! But there was a point where I had to crawl on my stomach to reach a far point in the attic, and well, the smell of blood was overpowering. And I’m a former military medic. The whole thing was really creepy.

Lessons learned: I did some exclusion work and was able to bring the problem under control within just a couple of days. The main entry points were in the attic and around the garage door. The homeowner is still a great customer to this day; we just don’t have any blood-dripping rodents about anymore. Perseverance and not being scared off, paid off.

About the Author

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AYALA is president of Spearhead Pest Control, Ventura, Calif.

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