Rats may be on the rise in Chilliwack.
It’s hard to tell. Neither the Fraser Health Authority nor City of Chilliwack track rat infestations in Chilliwack, according to officials.
Anecdotally, there are signs that Chilliwack rodent populations are growing but it’s difficult to quantify.
Sue Turgeon, owner of Chilliwack Pest Control, said she has noted a recent rise.
“Yes, I have seen an increase,” said Turgeon. “I have probably had double the amount of rat calls in the past two years. So that gives you an idea, and that’s just a percentage of what is actually happening out there.”
Turgeon has a locally owned and operated pest control company in Chilliwack, which she has run for the past 34 years.
Chilliwack’s population has grown from about 60,000 in 2000, to 83,000 people in the last census of 2016, with a future growth projection for about 100,000 by 2020.
“One of the reasons is that we have more people, and with that comes more rats,” she said.
Spilled bird feed, more food being composted, and more garbage in general means more potential food sources for rodents to get into.
Sometimes property owners don’t even realize they have a problem until they’re overrun, Turgeon said. They can gnaw on insulation and wires, or get under the hood of cars.
“When rats are outside, one of their favourite foods is snails,” Turgeon said. “So if we find snail shells in an attic, we know it’s rats, rather than squirrels in that case.”
Historically, Chilliwack being a community with rural agricultural roots, rats were primarily seen on local farms where they were regularly taken care of by owners and operators. They didn’t call in pest control companies the way urban dwellers tend to these days.
Now the rats are breeding in residential areas and getting into structures with holes as small as the size of a loonie.
“As long as there’s a food source they’ll stay nearby,” Turgeon said.
Baited snap traps set at right angles to walls is considered the best way to eradicate rodents.
After running a story recently about alarming numbers of owls killed by rat poison, a number of Progress readers commented about seeing more rats in Chilliwack.
“There are a lot more rats around town,” posted Colleen Boles on Facebook. “Been around here 20 years and never saw them. Last couple of years see them all the time.
“Not sure what the reason is but there are definitely more of them.”
Alicia Champ agreed.
“Then lets do something about the rats! Chilliwack is infested with them,” Champ wrote. “I was downtown picking up my son last week from a class and they were running everywhere, in the hedges, flower beds, the park, etc.”
Leah McNeil commented on that same thread that they had to resort to poison after the traps they set were sprung by the wily rodents.
“We used poison also, which I’m not happy with, but we have tried all kinds of traps and nothing worked,” McNeil wrote. They set it off, get the food, and get away. They get into the vehicles and trailers and it’s becoming quite a problem. I’ve heard of many people having issues of them getting in houses through a dryer vent they are chewing through. Gross.”
Turgeon said before the public was restricted to using bait stations, people would sometimes put an open dish of rat poison out under the porch and hope for the best.
“Mishandling of it was pretty common,” she said.
Sometimes that rodent poison would remain there for years, Turgeon said, which could account for some of the secondary bird and other animal poisonings.
“We are restricted to bait stations where the bait is contained,” Turgeon said. “The chances of secondary poisoning are extremely slim because of the type of poison we used, a single-dose anti-coagulant which metabolizes quickly.”