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Homeowners beware: That scratching sound you hear could be rats in the roof

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September 29, 2016 - 9:48 AM

PENTICTON - With the arrival of autumn and cooler temperatures here in the Thompson-Okanagan, an unwanted invasive species is also making seasonal changes that could prove invasive to your house.

Reid Kelley with Can Guard Pest Solutions in Penticton says he is seeing an increasing number of calls from homeowners wanting to rid their homes of rats.

Kelley says he generally fields an increase in calls for the problem in the fall, part of a trend that is increasing on an annual basis.

“I’ve had 10 calls for rat infestations so far this year,” Kelley says, adding he recently rid a house of six adult and seven week old rats.

The number of infestations has been on the rise in the Southern Interior since the species was introduced about a decade ago, he says. They most likely took the trip to the B.C. Interior on a transport truck from the Lower Mainland.

“The Okanagan has been great habitat for them - six month summers, orchards, gardens and vineyards, and mild winters has allowed them to thrive,” Kelley says, adding their numbers are “definitely spreading” throughout the Okanagan and Thompson. 

“Bedbugs, termites and rats are three pests you shouldn’t try to control by yourself,” Kelley says, noting rats are neophobic and quickly learn to avoid traps and poison should either device fail to kill them the first time. He says poison should never be used in buildings, as rats can die in walls and leave a decomposing odour that will last from six to 12 months.

Evidence of rats can generally be heard, Kelley says. Homeowners will hear gnawing and scratching sounds, generally in the attic, particularly around dusk. He says the rats only need a 1/2 inch opening to get inside and can climb up just about any material.

“They tend to head for the roof, but I have found them in crawlspaces too,” he says.

Homeowners can help discourage infestations by leaving open ground in the yard, with trees a minimum of four feet from the house. Compost is an attractant and should be kept in sealed drums and in containers designed for the purpose..

New building methods can also present problems for homeowners when rats invade. Modern plumbing systems use plastic piping, which the rodents nibble on to access water. Kelley says he treated a residence where rats had chewed through plastic plumbing in five different places. He’s also seen rats chew electrical wires.

With a gestation period of 22 days, rats can reach sexual maturity in two to three months. Although they only have an 18 month lifespan, they can breed five to eight pups in each birth cycle, which can occur four times a year.

With that in mind, it’s easy to understand Kelley when he says, “Nothing can be done to get rid of them. They’re here to stay.”

Reid Kelley of Can Guaard Pest Solutions in Penticton says fall tends to be a busy time for exterminators when it comes to rat control.
Reid Kelley of Can Guaard Pest Solutions in Penticton says fall tends to be a busy time for exterminators when it comes to rat control.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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