Brisbane’s cooler months have prompted warnings that rats may be looking for a cosy place to wine and dine — such as your car engine.
One Holland Park resident, Tanya Wright, was recently hit with a costly bill after her car wouldn’t start.
Her mechanic discovered the engine’s wiring had been almost entirely stripped by hungry rats.
“All the coating off the wiring had been gnawed off — a couple of thousand dollars’ worth of damage,” Ms Wright told ABC Radio Brisbane.
“It is a common thing, apparently, especially around this time of year, due to the fact that it’s getting cooler at night.
“They go in there looking for warmth from the motor and they discover things they like to chew.”
Ms Wright said she contacted Brisbane City Council, which sent forth rat dogs to sniff out the problem.
But her car remains at the mechanic’s and her insurance policy does not cover rat damage.
Ms Wright urged people to double-check their insurance policy to avoid a steep bill.
Rodent complaints declining
Deputy Mayor Krista Adams said the council had been using fox terriers to hunt out rats since 1990, but complaints had declined over time.
The council received 292 complaints about rats and mice in the past year.
“When the bubonic plague hit Brisbane in 1900, council was dealing with as many as 50,000 rats per year,” Cr Adams said in a statement.
“We have nowhere near those rodent numbers today, but our rat dogs remain a valuable asset to help identify infestations and determine where to place baits and traps.”
Stephen Knights, the field manager with pest control company Peter the Possum Man, said it was likely recent rain had increased food supply and prompted vermin to breed rapidly.
He said rats needed to gnaw at things to keep their teeth short and electrical wiring was a favourite nibble.
“In your urban environment, sometimes there might be nothing you can do about rats,” Mr Knights said.
“You might be unlucky that you live in a suburb that’s very old and there’s all kinds of things going on that rats like.”
Cars written off
Brad from Mango Hill texted the station to say he had caught 10 mice over the past four days that had “tried to take up residence in my bus”.
Katy Warner also said her family had had to write off one car entirely.
“We had rats in our car, they ate through all the wiring, our kids’ car seats and even chewed the seatbelts,” she said.
One listener urged that caution when using rat baits around children and pets, while another warned about confusing rats with native mammals such as antechinus.
To deter rats, the council advises keeping food securely stored and only leaving pet food out for 20 minutes at feeding time.
Holes in walls should be blocked up and repaired and overhanging branches trimmed away from gutters, it said.
Mr Knights said the most effective eradication method was to place baits in plastic stations designed to prevent any animal but rats from accessing the bait.
He said he saw “a little too frequently” baits laid out incorrectly on his call-outs, which increased the risk of possums and other animals getting to the poison.
“It’s such a simple thing,” he said.
“Just put it in a plastic bait station.”
Rat infestations can be reported to council on (07) 3403 8888.