October 26, 2015 - 8:00 PM
THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - Just a few years ago, Thompson-Okanagan residents didn’t have to worry about rats invading attic spaces or chewing up electrical wires, simply because the rodent was a rarity in these parts. That's all changed.
Steve Ball owns BugMaster Pest Control, which services the North, Central and South Okanagan, and he says rat complaints are growing across the valley.
“Five years ago if any of the pest control companies caught a rat in Kelowna, it was big news. Now, fast forward five years, and one of our guys has caught 140 of them himself this year alone,” Ball says. “We’ve got five guys on the road, so multiply that for the total.”
The bulk of the company’s rat calls originate in Osoyoos, Penticton, Summerland, West Kelowna and Kelowna, but the rodent is starting to show up in previously uncolonized areas like Lake Country and Vernon now too.
“They seem to be progressing that way (northward),” Ball says. “It looks like Vernon will be next.”
Gus Cremers of Shuswap Pest Control has yet to catch a rat in Vernon, and says it’s uncommon in the Shuswap area as well. When he does get a rat call, it’s usually at properties bordering forest or bush areas.
“It’s the occasional bush rat that moves into a shed or an attic,” he says.
And while the rat population in the North Okanagan and Shuswap appears to be small, the rodents that are there are a big pain, Cremers says.
“They’re fairly smart and able to learn quickly. If you don’t know what you’re doing (with a trap) they get gun shy,” he says. “I usually make sure to bring my A-game for a rat call.”
Rat complaints are on the rise in the Kamloops area as well, where Interior Pest Arrest owner Terry Wiens says the rodents are popping up where they never did before.
“It used to be if you got a call on a bush rat it was on the outskirts of town, like Westside or Barnhartvale,” Wiens says. “Now it’s definitely more common to find them in any part of town.”
He gets a handful of rat calls every week, and says the busiest time is the fall when temperatures are cooling down and the rodents are looking for warmth.
Rats carry numerous diseases that can infect humans, and infestations are a homeowner’s worst nightmare. Ball has seen the rodent’s handiwork many times over in the South and Central Okanagan, and says it’s not pretty.
“We have a lot of roof rats here that take up residence in attics — if you’ve ever seen an attic where rats have been present, it’s disgusting,” Ball says.
Rats are also known to chew through wires, creating fire hazards, and chew through water pipes, which can cause flooding.
“They’re just nasty little creatures. No one wants to live with them,” Ball says.
While a boon for business, Ball says his company has been trying to work with local municipalities to do a more comprehensive trapping program in hopes of removing the rats. The City of Kelowna is discussing its options, and Naramata introduced a temporary program over the summer to help residents pay for rat removal services.
“I’m really convinced something has to happen on a mass scale to eradicate the rats. They’re just going to get worse and worse. Look at the last five years. Over the next five it will be the same,” he says.
Rats can have between six and 10 pups a year, and will have between six and eight litters a year, Ball says, adding two rats can become 100 in a year’s time under the right conditions.
The rats are not native to the area, according to WildSafe B.C. coordinator Frank Ritcey, but seem to be doing relatively well here.
“They come in on boats, typically you see big rat infestations in port cities,” Ritcey says. “From there, they might get on a produce truck or a grain car and they can travel back and forth.”
WildSafe B.C. has been hearing an increasing number of rat reports and captured the creatures on camera recently in Kamloops.
“What we’ve found is those same things attracting bears into town are the same things that attract rats into town. If people manage their garbage, pet food, compost, and bird seed, not only do you not have bears coming into your neighbourhood, you don’t have rats coming in as well. It’s a two for one,” Ritcey says.
Many rats get in right through the front door, so keeping those shut, as well as sealing up your home, and reducing nesting areas like wood piles and dense shrubbery, are other ways you can prevent a possible rat infestation.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015