As BC reacts to the ravages of rodents, a pest control expert explains why it is resistant to disease
Greater Victoria is blessed with a famously warm climate, and that fact alone helps attract people from across the country, and indeed, the world, to move to our fair city.
Anyway, this is Canada, and we’re seeing winter. Sure, our winters pale in comparison to the bone-chilling temperatures the rest of the country experiences, but the weather is getting cooler and staying indoors when it’s warm and cozy is all the more appealing.
It should come as no surprise, then, that we can find ourselves sharing a living space with uninvited furry friends who, similarly, are looking for a warm, safe, cozy place to spend the winter.
Specifically, we are talking about mice.
Victoria just got the chance to be named the state’s fourth largest city and it’s a trend that keeps Noel Erickson and his staff working overtime.
Erickson runs a Victoria pest control company called Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control.
“We tend to focus on getting building envelopes to keep mice out of the house instead of using lots of traps or poison,” Erickson said.
“Our process is to find out where they enter the building and we install doors that go to one of those points and work with the owner of the house to “drive them out” by removing or finding sources of food and water sources. They come out of this building to get food and when they try to go back inside, they can’t.”
It sounds simple enough, but Erickson explained that rats are highly intelligent and well-adapted to survive so the process is complicated.
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How hard is it? Well, let’s consider some facts about rats.
First, rats are smart. It is estimated that they have an IQ of about 105. (That’s five points more than the average person so just imagine what they can do with opposable thumbs.)
They are resilient, too. They can climb trees and ropes and can walk from a 50-foot drop. They can also jump up to 48 inches.
Water is not afraid of mice. They can tread water for up to three days, hold their breath for more than three minutes and have been known to swim up sewers to toilets.
They breed in about 20 days and will release pheromones to attract other mice to a more hospitable environment.
Rats have ribs that move and move to fit into any hole their skull can fit.
Eventually, their teeth stop growing and they can chew almost anything, including concrete.
“Rats are good at digging too,” said James Garry, one of Skedaddles’ employees. “It’s almost like dealing with water. If they are determined enough, they will find a way in. We’re just trying to do a great job for them to come in, to go somewhere else.”
And while Erickson recognizes the desire of homeowners to rely on poisons to deal with rats, he said it’s not that simple. First of all, BC banned the use of many rodenticides because they had an unintended effect on rodents, barn owls and other wildlife.
“And it’s not easy to poison them in the first place,” Erickson said. “They’re very sensitive to environmental changes so if you put a bait box in an area, they’ll get up and see it as something new, and they’ll back off.”
Of course, even when poison was used and rats occasionally ate it, they had a nasty habit of getting into walls to die and rot with the predictable effects of inhalation.
The best option, Erickson says, is to get rid of rats as soon as you see them and protect the building as best you can. His company offers a lifetime warranty on building pest control and will come back to deal with any new infestations.
“There’s always a chance they’ll come back and chew a new hole somewhere, but we can deal with that,” said David Wong, another Skedaddle employee.
Still, the battle continues, with pest control companies using motion-activated cameras, drones, metal gaskets and other tactics in their battle against rats.
“It is difficult to deal with them. They have been evolving for millions of years but we keep finding new ways to defeat them,” said Erickson.
The war continues.