Unexpected problem: Rodents squatting in flood-evacuated Merritt home | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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Unexpected problem: Rodents squatting in flood-evacuated Merritt home

A rising Coldwater River overtook parts of Merritt on Monday, with flood waters remaining on Nov. 16, 2021, as seen from aerial drone footage.
Image Credit: YOUTUBE/Greg InBC

A Merritt family returned home to find more than just flood damage this week.

Kelly Hanson said she was relieved that the flooded Coldwater River soaked the family's yard, but didn't flood their basement or cause sewage to back up.

However, the relief ended there when she found rodent feces covering the kitchen — which they found on the countertops, on the stove and in the cupboards.

"We were discussing all of the possible things we could find coming home. The property was flooded but not deep enough to get into house. So we were concerned about the foundation, the sewer or sinking and settling in spring," Hanson said. "We saw none of those issues, but then we saw mouse droppings everywhere in the kitchen."

During a natural disaster, like a flood or a fire, humans aren't the only ones whose homes are affected.

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Rodents, like mice and rats, can be displaced and they will seek shelter in human built structures like homes and garages, according to Orkin Canada's Matt Wright.

He said the pest control company hasn't had many service calls due to flooding, but remediation efforts have only just started since the first day of flooding on Nov. 15.

"It'll probably start rearing its ugly head when the clean up gets going," Wright said, anticipating more calls to address rodent problems soon.

Although it's common for rodents to find shelter in homes and structures after natural disasters, companies like Orkin are typically called by urban residents, while rural residents tend to tackle pest issues on their own, Wright said.

"In hindsight, it makes complete sense," Hanson said. "It's frustrating now, just knowing our time away from home is extended."

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The family was out of town when the Coldwater River breached its banks on Nov. 15, and she watch the disaster unfold online and on TV, which Hanson said left her feeling "disconnected."

"Going home to see yard covered in mud and neighbours pulling things out of their basement, it made things very real," she said. "Having a new baby, I'm grateful I wasn't there to experience the fear of evacuating quickly and crossing dangerous bridges."

Although their Merritt home is not largely damaged by the floods so far, she said their return will be postponed until the rodent mess can be cleaned and sanitized.

They don't know what kind of rodents have been living there, but with a young baby, she's concerned for the possibility of deer mice and the transmission of hantavirus.

READ MORE: Flooded B.C. highways prompt more flights, bigger aircraft from Kelowna to Vancouver

Hantavirus can cause a serious respiratory illness and it's often found to be carried by deer mice in Western Canada. While dangerous, it's quite rare, with zero to three cases found in B.C. every year since 1994, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

Hanson added that she is concerned for residents who are rushing to return to potentially flood damaged homes.

Besides the possibility for rodent infestations, she warned that mould can cause lasting respiratory illnesses, which she has herself experienced. She hopes that fellow Merritt residents have their homes properly remediated before they return to live there full time.

Hanson's home is in the phase three evacuation zone, which is permitted for day access under the City of Merritt's current rules.

The smaller phase four area, where the homes most affected by the flooding are, is not yet open to the public, but the City is aiming to allow day access by Friday, Dec. 3.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 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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