Greater Victoria is blessed with a famously temperate climate, and that fact alone serves to attract people from across the country, and in fact, the world, to relocate to our fair city.
Still, this is Canada, and we do experience winter. Certainly, our winter is nothing compared to the bone-chilling temperature that much of the country experiences, but the weather does get cooler and staying indoors where it’s warm and cosy becomes far more attractive.
It should come as no surprise, then, that we can find ourselves sharing accommodation with uninvited furry companions who, similarly, are looking for a warm, safe, cosy place to spend the winter.
Specifically, we’re talking about rats.
Victoria recently squeaked its way to being labelled the fourth rattiest city in the province and it’s a trend that has Noel Erickson and his staff working overtime.
Erickson operates a Victoria pest control company named Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control.
“We tend to concentrate on securing the building envelopes to keep rodents out of the house as opposed to using a lot of traps or poison,” said Erickson.
“Our process is to find out where they are getting into the building and then put in one-way doors at those points and work with the homeowner to “evict” them by removing or securing food and water sources. They leave the building to get food and when they try to get back in, they can’t.”
Sounds easy enough, but Erickson explained that rats are very smart and well-adapted to survive so the process can be difficult.
How difficult? Well, let’s consider some rat facts.
First off, rats are smart. It’s been estimated that they have an IQ of about 105. (That’s five points above the average human so just think about what they could do with opposable thumbs.)
They are resilient, too. They can climb trees and wires and can walk away from a drop of 50 feet. They can also jump vertically up to 48 inches.
Water doesn’t scare rats. They can tread water for up to three days, hold their breath for more than three minutes and have been known to swim their way up sewer pipes and into toilets.
They reproduce in about 20 days and will release pheromones to attract other rats to hospitable surroundings.
Rats have rib cages that dislocate and shift to allow them to fit through any hole that can accommodate their skull.
And finally, their teeth never stop growing and they can chew through just about anything, including concrete.
“Rats are very good at digging as well,” said James Garry, one of Skedaddles staff. “It’s almost like dealing with water. If they are determined enough, they’ll find a way in. We just try to make it too much work for them to get in, so they go elsewhere.”
And while Erickson recognizes the desire of homeowners to rely on poison to deal with the rodents, he said that it isn’t all that easy. To begin with, B.C. banned the use of most rodenticides as they were having inadvertent impacts on the predators of rats, killing owls and other wildlife.
“And it’s not easy to get them to take poison in the first place,” said Erickson. “They are very sensitive to environmental changes so if you put a bait box down in place, they will get up to it, recognize it as something new, and back away.”
Of course, even when poison was in use and rats would occasionally take it, they had a bad habit of going into walls to die and decompose with predictable olfactory results.
The best option, said Erickson, is to evict rats as soon as you notice them and secure the building as well as possible. His company offers a lifetime guarantee on pest-proofing a structure and will return to deal with any new incursions.
“There’s always the chance that they come back and chew a new hole somewhere, but we can deal with that,” said David Wong, another Skedaddle staffer.
Still, the battle goes on, with pest control companies using motion-activated cameras, drones, metal-infused gaskets and other tricks in their battle with rats.
“They’re tough to deal with. They’ve been evolving for millions of years to survive but we keep finding new ways to beat them as well,” said Erickson.
The battle continues.