Preventing Rats in Tree Beds

Tree beds, also called tree pits, can be a place rats build their underground nests, especially when conditions are right.

Do not cover the tree bed with pavers, concrete, asphalt, or any other materials unless approved by NYC Parks. Harming the tree bed can kill the tree. You can be fined and ordered to remove the materials covering the pit.

Instead, take these steps to prevent rats from burrowing in tree beds.

Remove Access to Food

A rat only needs one ounce of food per day. Food, litter, dog waste, animal feed and garbage provide plenty of food for rats.

  • Remove all litter.
  • Pick up dog waste and encourage pickup of dog waste by posting signs.
  • Do not feed cats or birds. Clean up any animal feed.

When setting out garbage for pick up:

  • Store garbage in containers with tight-fitting lids.
  • Place garbage cans or bags as far away from the tree bed as possible.
  • Put garbage out close to pick-up time.
  • Use heavy duty trash bags to discourage rips or leaks.

Eliminate Access to Water

A rat only needs one ounce of water per day. Water that accumulates along the curb or in the tree bed can provide water for the rats to drink.

  • Sweep away and remove all standing water.

Reduce Options for Shelter

A rat only needs 6 to 8 inches of soil to burrow. Rats prefer to burrow close to a reliable food source and under clutter, dense bushes and plants.

  • Carefully collapse burrows when they appear or fill with landscaping pebbles, being careful not to damage or expose the tree roots. Do not pour liquids other than water or plug any objects into the burrow.
  • Control weeds and bushes and avoid dense, low-lying plantings.
  • Trim plants up off the ground and make space between plants.
  • Use fresh mulch or landscaping pebbles to discourage burrowing. Cover the whole pit to 1 inch depth. Keep mulch and landscaping pebbles away from the trunk of the tree.
  • Do not add additional soil on top of the tree bed.
  • Do not try to treat the burrow with a chemical unless you are licensed to do so.
  • Hire a licensed exterminator to apply a rodenticide bait to the burrow or install a bait station. Visit New York State: Environmental Conversation to see a list of licensed exterminators.

Interrupt Travel Corridors

A rat will travel along curbs and under sidewalks.

  • Seal small holes and cracks in the sidewalk or curb with caulk and roofing cement.
  • Fill large gaps and holes with expanding foam; stuff with steel or copper mesh and seal or caulk. Using a layering method with foam, mesh and sealant will help prevent the rodent from re-entering or re-opening the hole.
  • Sweep up the curb.

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