If the many complaints about rat invaders didn’t already indicate the Okanagan has a bit of a pest problem, there’s new evidence.
Kelowna and Vernon are among the “rattiest cities” in B.C. according to Orkin, an extermination company that ranked the province’s Top 20 rat-havens based on the number of treatments it performed in 2017.
Vancouver is first, followed by Victoria, Burnaby, Richmond, Surrey. Kelowna is sixth and, in the Okanagan, the only other Okanagan city to earn the dubious distinction is Vernon, which is the 18th rattiest.
There may be no clear route to removing the cities from this list. It’s on individuals to deal with rat problems although there has been lots of outreach to local governments.
Frank Ritcey, provincial co-ordinator with WildSafe BC, tends to focus on bear, deer and coyote complaint issues, but the exploding rat population issue has gained the public’s interest.
“If you take all our education materials and substitute rat for bear, it pretty much amounts to the same thing in terms of wildlife proofing your property,” Ritcey said.
He said the reason rats are suddenly showing up in Interior communities is a bit of a mystery, one he says that Thompson Rivers University students have begun doing preliminary research on.
“They are able to get around by transferring themselves in or on trucks or other shipped goods from the Lower Mainland and if they find an urban setting, they can thrive,” he said.
“We have cameras along lots of trails in the region but we never see any rats. We see lots of other wildlife and rodents but never any rats. They don’t survive well in the wild.”
Nolan Newman, B.C. Interior and Yukon branch manager for Orkin Canada in Kelowna, thinks the rat outbreak in the Interior can be traced to a garbage strike in Vancouver more than a decade ago, where garbage was allowed to accumulate on the streets.
“After that strike, we began to see rats showing up in areas never seen before throughout the Okanagan, Kamloops, Salmon Arm, Creston, Cache Creek, Castlegar and Nelson,” Newman said, adding rats set up home in cars, semi-trucks and truck transport loads, essentially hitchhiking their way to Interior communities.
“My daughter came back from Vancouver one time and she had three rats hiding in her vehicle. With transport trucks, you often see pallets of something stored outside waiting to be loaded, and rats will nestle in among them traveling with the shipment wherever it is going.”
And if they arrive in your community unhindered, rats multiply quickly at a far greater level than even rabbits.
“Rats have a shorter gestation period. They become sexually mature very early in life, six weeks of age, and they can have a large litter of 10 to 12 babies at a time. Females can give birth to one batch of babies and at the same time be pregnant with the next batch,” Ritcey said.
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