By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
Oshawa homeowners are starting to get a lot of unwanted housemates.
In recent months, the City of Oshawa has seen an explosion in the rat population, a significant increase that hasn’t been seen in the city for decades.
According to Mike Gray, the owner of Pro-X Services Pest Control, he has been in the business of pest management for more than 20 years and hasn’t seen anything like this before.
“I would say the first 20 years, you could count the number of rat jobs I did on two hands, maybe 10 jobs,” he says. “In the past year, I have done close to, I’m going to say, 50 different accounts in Oshawa alone.”
For Gray, he explains that there are a number of different factors that could be playing into the increase in the number of rodents chewing into Oshawa homes, including the boom in development across the city, as well as the milder winters in recent years and this summer’s heavy rainfall. Gray also says that rats tend to proliferate in lower income areas where the lack of upkeep in and around the home can create prime habitat for rats.
“With increased population in Durham Region, significantly in the past year, plus construction, plus everything adding together, it’s causing these rats to scatter to areas where normal behaviour hasn’t been and they’re thriving,” he says.
In a prime habitat, a female rat can have between nine and 22 pups in a single litter, and colonies with shelter, food and water can grow exponentially if left unchecked.
“If they can find those three and be readily available, then that’s a prime environment and what they’re going to do is breed and it’s going to explode,” he says.
This year, Gray says he’s even had one situation where the rats have chewed through the concrete foundation of a home to get inside.
And the infestations are not just happening in one area of the city.
“It’s not centrally located or one really bad area, it’s everywhere,” Gray says. “I’ve had problems in the south end of Oshawa, the Oxford and the Wentworth areas, I’ve had in the mid (area), the Harmony, the Olives and I’ve got stuff in the downtown and I’ve got stuff in the top end of town.”
For that reason, Gray says it’s important for the public to start being aware of the issue.
The complaints have also started popping up at city hall with councillors becoming aware of the problem as early as May of this year.
For Councillor Amy McQuaid-England, she says she’s had as many as 10 calls in a single day from across the city relating to rats.
“It’s becoming very apparent that the city needs to do something about it,” she says. “This is a full-on city of Oshawa issue, it isn’t just one area. It’s not just south Oshawa, this is happening in neighbourhoods across the city, and residents are dealing with it on their own and they can’t because these infestations are out of control.”
Speaking during the city council meeting on Sept. 25, McQuaid-England noted that the city has gaps in their response to pest control.
Introducing a motion that will go to the city’s Corporate Services committee, McQuaid-England is calling on the city to not only start tracking inquiries from residents related to pests, something Service Oshawa currently does not do, but also to have staff create a communication plan to inform residents of the proper way to contact the city to dispose of dead rats. The councillor is also requesting that city staff prepare proposals and potential program options in the 2018 budget for creating methods to assist residents dealing with rat infestations.
In a public service announcement released on Sept. 22, the City of Oshawa says they only respond to calls regarding urban wildlife if the animal has been injured or is deceased, and they do not deal with calls related to urban wildlife running at large.
To control pest populations, the city advises residents to rodent-proof buildings by sealing outside openers where rodents can enter, eliminating locations where rodents seek shelter, and remove food and water sources.