“Vancouver has a rat problem, Victoria has a rat problem and more and more, we’re starting to see that we have a rat problem as well.”
An increase in rat population is suspected throughout the Okanagan thanks to the mild winter this past year and growing population in nearby areas, meaning the rodents could be out in full force.
Zoe Kirk, the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) public works coordinator, has been receiving more calls from the community seeing rats, which she said ties directly in with the weather when it has not been a cold year.
“We haven’t really had a bad winter this year. I hear from Vancouver and the more southern communities that they have explosions of rat populations and I can be fairly certain that we’re going to see an increase of rat population here as well,” Kirk explained.
“We have certainly put a lot of buildings out into the environment that will allow the rat to harbour itself safely and if we’re not really careful about our human attractants, we’re going to get rats.”
Controlling food sources and limiting denning areas are key to keeping rats in check on your property.
“All we have to do is look at it from the rat’s perspective. They want to stay dry and warm over the winter,” Kirk said, stating places like a garage or shed are the perfect spot for them to hide. “In fact, about 80 per cent of rats die over the winter from cold.”
Kirk also said that even if 80 per cent of rats do die during the winter, that 20 per cent will easily bring the population back up to where it was before.
A pair of rats could theoretically produce over 900 offspring in a single year.
So the best way to keep rats away is to check your property for ways they can access it.
“Look at your foundation, look at anything around your house that rats could get into,” Kirk said, pointing to gutters and overhanging trees. “If we’re not making sure that there are strong barriers against rats to enter in and live inside the walls of our shed or wood piles then we are going to get rats.”
Remember not to use poison traps, as they can affect other wildlife up the food chain, like birds of prey that might inadvertently feed on a poisoned rodent, and domestic pets.
“If you just put some poison down, you can imagine the non-target species that rats may infect if it takes in that poison and gets out into the community,” Kirik said. “We certainly don’t advocate the use of chemicals if at all possible."
Glue traps are also not encouraged for use, since other animals can get stuck on them.
Suggestions are to contact a local, reputable pest control company if you need assistance with removing rats. A few electoral areas even have a program to half-reimburse individuals that use a pest program.
For those who place traps and get rid of them yourself, Kirk adds to make sure you know how to properly dispose of them.
“We do accept that type of vermin up at our landfills,” she said.
Under-five rats can be bagged and added to your general garbage. However, large amounts should be kept separate, double bagged and driven up to the landfill, where the worker will direct you on where to dispose of them.
For more information on how to handle and keep rodents away from your property, visit the WildSafeBC website here.