Too many rats in Olympia

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OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Olympia is full of rats, and no, that's not a political opinion.
Pest exterminators say this is a bad year for rat infestations in the city and surrounding communities, and it's going to get worse as the weather turns cold and more of the rodents look for warm places to nest. "I've never seen a year quite like this," said Steve Venables, who has been working in the area

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Olympia is full of rats, and no, that's not a political opinion.

Pest exterminators say this is a bad year for rat infestations in the city and surrounding communities, and it's going to get worse as the weather turns cold and more of the rodents look for warm places to nest. "I've never seen a year quite like this," said Steve Venables, who has been working in the area for 22 years and owns Venables Pest Management. He told The Olympian newspaper that he's purchased twice as many traps and twice as much bait as in previous years. Sandy Jones had to hire workers in hazmat suits to do $5,000 in repairs to her house in west Olympia after a family of six rats got into the crawl space under her house, tore out insulation to build a nest, and urinated and defecated all over. "They can chew their way through anything," she said. There are problems not only in Jones' neighborhood, but also in Lacey and Tumwater, too, said Susanne Beauregard, director of Thurston County Animal Control. "I don't think people understand what a rat population we have in this area," she said Monday. "We've had several calls this week." Beauregard said in Jones' case, a nearby greenbelt with 5 acres of forest was recently taken out for development, so the wildlife needed someplace to go.

Greg Hoover, owner of Arbor Pest Control, said he has seen more rodents in the past two years, and urban growth is a cause. "There's been a lot of land clearing, so they are being pushed from their normal habitat," Hoover said. "Recent calls are up significantly - probably double." Venables said the Norway rat - the big rodents that like burrows, sewers, basements and crawl spaces - came to the area around the turn of the century on wooden ships. "For 20 years we wouldn't find them out of the downtown core," he said. More recently, the roof rat from Asia arrived. Slightly smaller than Norway rats, they are agile climbers that often live in trees, run along utility lines and can enter buildings from roofs. Venables said they have been known to move along the Interstate 5 corridor on telephone lines. "They are more difficult to catch, I think smarter," he said. "This year we're getting a lot of calls about roof rats in attics. "Rodents used to be here and there. Now they are so commonplace."

Rats, of course, need food, which is why they hang around downtown restaurants, Venables said. In winter, the food sources diminish, and the rodents spread to residential areas, he said. "The closer to town, the more rats there are going to be," said Dan Carnahan, owner of Carnahan's Pest Control Co. Venables said people don't like to talk about rats, so they probably are more common than most people realize. "I told the people at work, and they were horrified," Jones said. She said her exterminators wore hazardous material-type suits because of the threat of hantavirus. The disease is rare, but can be deadly, Venables said. It can be transmitted by infected rodents through urine, droppings or saliva, and can spread to humans if the waste is stirred up and breathed.

Along with ruining her crawl space, Jones said rats gnawed up an expensive leather chair. To make sure they don't come back, she is spending $1,000 for ongoing rat control measures. "They are not afraid of you when you are asleep," Jones said. "One was on my bed."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

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