The rat population in some communities in the West Kootenay has taken off in the past few years. File photo

The rat population in some communities in the West Kootenay has taken off in the past few years. File photo

New Denver battling influx of rats

The pest appeared in big numbers for the first time this summer

New Denver and Silverton residents are dealing with the sudden return this year of an ancient enemy of humans: rats.

“We had one resident trap 22 rats in the last few months,” says Colin Moss, a New Denver village councillor.

“It’s the first year we’ve noticed it to this extent,” he added. “It’s hard to say if it’s a one-off good year for rats, or if they’re here to stay and will get worse, or if it’s part of the invasive species phenomenon where it’s another species we’ll have to deal with.”

Moss says the village and neighbouring Silverton may have had brown, or Norwegian, rats in the past — both communities are over a century old — but not in significant numbers for a long time.

Now it seems, the rat boom reported in Nelson, Creston and other West Kootenay communities has spread north.

SEE: Rat population making inroads in Nelson

“People think rats move around from zone to zone on food trucks, but all they have to do is get into the frame of your car and that’s good enough,” says Moss. “They can travel pretty easily.

“They are the most successful mammal in history. But they don’t exist without humans. They don’t live out in the wild, they need us to survive. So it’s an issue I don’t think we’ll ever eradicate them completely, now that we have them.”

Rats can spread bacteria that cause disease in humans such as pneumonia, salmonella, rat-bite fever and a variety of lesser known illnesses. Rats can also be a nuisance as they gnaw holes to get into buildings, causing damage. They also dig into gardens to get fruit, vegetables and even flower bulbs.

Moss says he thinks the rats found a ready food source in the community’s gardens and compost bins.

He hopes the rats’ food sources will diminish over winter, and he says by spring residents should know if they have a long-term problem.

Moss says if the presence of rats turns out to be permanent, it could change things for residents of New Denver.

“People who garden are going to have to change what they garden, absentee home owners with fruit trees left unattended, we’ve had a real problem with that and bears. Now it could be a rat problem as well,” he says.

WildSafeBC has tips for people wanting to keep rats away — and who doesn’t?

• Keep garbage secure and never put it out at night

• Always use a rodent-proof container when putting garbage on the curb.

• Don’t leave pet food outside.

• Don’t have a bird feeder, especially the type that distributes seeds.

• Manage compost by turning it regularly, adding dry grass or leaves

• Buy or build a composter that does not allow rodents to access the contents.

• If you have rats, work with your neighbours to manage attractants in your neighbourhood.