Rats on the Rise!

By Chris Williams on March 10, 2011.

Rats are on the rise! The last 12 months have seen more than usual rat activity in my area. I’ve done more rat jobs recently than in past years and think that this is more than just coincidence. Rats have always been around and can be found lurking in the usual places like dumps, sea walls, under docks, river and stream banks, and abandoned buildings.

Lately I’ve been called on to remove rats from many residential structures in seemingly unlikely locations. It usually starts out with the sighting of a rodent scuttling along the garage floor or finding a torn up bag of bird seed. Things quickly get out of hand as the rats become more comfortable and begin to explore and find a nesting site. As time passes more and more evidence becomes noticeable. Droppings, runways, holes in walls, noises and odors all point to rat infestation. Many factors contribute to rat activity. Development of previously natural habitat, removal of abandoned buildings, digging and sewer work, livestock feed and bedding, bird feeders, and dumpsters all influence rat populations. Food sources may attract displaced or immature rats, and with adequate food supply local populations may explode quickly.

ratOne poorly understood phenomena is certainly effecting rat populations: Global Warming. With milder winters, early springs, and late falls rats are able to extend the breeding season. Rats breed year round in tropical climates but are subject to different behavior in temperate regions. Breeding ceases during cold winter months but quickly picks up as the temperature rises. Spring and fall are the times when peek reproduction takes place, generally slowing in the hotter summer months. With Global Warming in place, we should expect to see an increase in rat breeding and therefore an increase in rat activity.

Development pushing deeper into previously natural habitat is also increasing as man continues to expand his activity. When building starts, rats that had lived out of site are forced to move and may end up trying to find shelter and food near human residences. Pet food, dog feces, trash cans, bird feeders, livestock bedding/feed, and dumpsters offer a ready food source and are extremely attractive to rats. Rats prefer to nest near a steady food source where life is good. Economic factors also come into play regarding rat activity. In hard times (like the present) foreclosures and bankruptcy may cause homeowners and businesses to loose property. Homes and buildings may sit vacant for years providing ideal conditions for rat harborage. Large populations can overrun vacant structures and reek havoc with the neighbors.

One case I heard about involved a feed storage facility that was abandoned, full of feed for domestic animals, horses, and farm animals. When workers began to raise the structure the ensuing rush of escaping rats and mice was overwhelming. Work had to be halted to prevent local road closures caused by rats crossing the road and being hit in large numbers. Industry specialists were called in to solve and document the problem. Video from inside the building showed rats jumping around everywhere with no fear of humans. Numbers in the 10’s of thousands were estimated to be present. Case in point.

Rats can quickly get a foot hold and become quite a problem. As well as damage caused by gnawing, fecal and urine contamination may ruin food stuffs. Rats carry and spread disease on and inside their bodies. Rats also may have fleas and mites that live both on them and in their burrows or nests. Large infestations may require extensive control measures as well as thorough clean up. Much can be done to control rat populations starting with good sanitation and building practices like removing any potential food resources from around the structure, making sure there are no entry points into the structure, and limiting or removing habitat close to the structure. Traps and rodenticides are used to knock down rat populations and work best when incorporated into an Integrated Pest Management Plan. This approach takes all the factors into consideration including inspection, monitoring, sanitation, exclusion, and control efforts.

Colonial Pest Control is experienced in rat control. We are ready to help if rats become an issue. We use industry standard practices to safely control rats and make specific recommendations depending on each situation. If you think you have a rat in the kitchen give us a call!



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