SYDNEY — If you’ve noticed more rats around your property, you’re not alone.
Pest control experts say the rodent population in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality has risen dramatically in recent years.
“I’ve been doing pest control in Cape Breton for 25 years and this is the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Kevin McLaughlin, co-owner of Island Pest Control Ltd., who said green bins and the lack of proper food disposal are the key factors.
“It’s the perfect cause-and-effect situation that has caused rat population levels to spike to levels we haven’t seen in decades. Our waste facilities are inadequate to the task and the city is not enforcing any of the rules. We’re having entire neighbourhoods overrun by rats.”
Richard MacDonald, owner of Cape Breton Pest Control, said the number of rats in the CBRM has been steadily increasing for a decade and seems to have gotten worse in the past two years.
“When I started 12 years ago it was relatively mild and then starting about seven years ago, it really ramped up, and the last three or four years I’ve been really busy for rats — there is a major increase,” he said.
“This year’s not any worse than last year but last year was pretty bad and this year is still pretty bad.”
‘PEOPLE ARE DESPERATE’
District 1 Coun. Gordon MacDonald said he gets at least one phone call each week from a resident complaining about the rat problem in the Sydney Mines area.
He said green bins, as well as the number of abandoned buildings and vacant lots in his district, are major problems.
“It’s the regularity of these calls. People are desperate. We have people that will call and they’re like, ‘I had pest control people come to my home once a month and my neighbours don’t do anything, the rats are still running around,’ so some people feel like it’s futile. If everybody around you is not looking at controlling them, it’s hard for one home to control them,” he said.
“I’ve driven through my district and I’ve actually watched rats bouncing through grass towards people’s homes. I see them regularly running across streets.”
He plans to bring the matter up before council at some point if the problem persists
“They seem to be a problem and I think at some point it’s something we should be looking at dealing with. They seem to be an issue in every area, not just in my district, they’re everywhere. They are a problem and I get lots of calls regarding them,” he said.
“At some point, I’m going to ask for a staff report on how we can control the rat population.”
RACCOON NUMBERS RISING
It’s not just rats. Both McLaughlin and Richard MacDonald said the number of raccoons is also rising.
“It’s the exact same thing,” said McLaughlin. “These are both vermin, opportunistic and it’s all about the availability of food. I’ve had them come up on my back deck when I used to leave food out for my cats at night and then there’s six raccoons eating the cat food. If it’s there, they will come.”
“Raccoons have really increased in the last three or four years. It is similar to rats. Green bins, you want to keep them strapped down and the top strapped pretty good. They’re pretty dexterous, so they can open up the top and get in there,” he said, adding that raccoons carry parasites and diseases that can be harmful to humans and pets, including roundworm.
This time of year, they are looking for a place to spend the winter, he noted.
“Raccoons like to get in your shed, under your shed, or in your attic. When they get in your attic, they usually hunker down and have babies and then you’re dealing with something that’s not too nice. Check your soffits, check your eaves — especially after the hurricane. Make sure nothing’s flapping open, the soffits are all secure, the vents are covered, your fascia is closed off, because if not, those raccoons can climb up the side of the house and climb up your rain gutter just like nothing, and then they are in your attic when they have babies and they’ll use your attic as their washroom as well.”
BE A BAD HOST
Making your property less inviting to rats and raccoons is the best way to prevent them from making your home — or your neighbour’s — theirs.
McLaughlin said eliminating easy access to food, shelter and water will force rodents to move on.
“I tell people if they have no choice but to put food waste in their green bin, they should wait until the night before. Some people have purchased deep freezes to store their food waste in so they’re not leaving it out for a week drawing problems,” he said.
“The other thing is to clear debris and keep the grass cut down. Take the approach to your property to make it as open and dangerous for them as possible.”
Richard MacDonald offered similar advice. He said people might not realize how much food there is on their property — particularly in the fall.
“If you do have a green bin, keep it well away from the house. If there’s holes in it, put some screen over it. If you have an apple tree that has apples all over the lawn, clean them up. Don’t leave your pumpkins out after Halloween. Food is the big one. I love feeding the birds so do other people, but I don’t suggest feeding the birds if you’re worried about having rodents in your house,” he said, adding that now is the time to make sure your house is rodent-proof. “Check your house, check around your foundation and if there’s anything that can be caulked or sealed, certainly do that. Most garages, mine included, you’ve got wood piled up behind it or stuff you meant to take to the dump and it’s all cluttered, and that’s all homes for like the rats and they love it.
“So food, shelter and water is what they’re looking for. So if you can limit that, you shouldn’t have a problem with rats.”