A culmination of weather conditions in Adelaide has seen a “plague” of rats hitting homes and shops in the city, with pest controllers saying the problem is worse than usual for this time of year.
The number of clients battling rodent problems has noticeably picked up in the past few weeks, said Shane Winstanley, the operations manager at Complete Pest Control.
“In the last three weeks or so we are seeing an increase in rodent activity and it’s probably a bit earlier than normal,” he said.
“It’s pretty widespread … from north to west to south to east, we’re fighting against it.”
The rise of the rodents could be put down to a few factors, including a strong breeding season which meant there were more of them, and the current dry weather, which meant they were searching for food.
“Up until recently there’s been a lot of food out there for them, and they’ve been able to breed up and take advantage of that,” Rob Hore, a pest controller based in the northern suburbs, told ABC Drive.
“But in the last month or so it’s been quite dry and things have dried off a lot, so what’s happened is they’ve come out of fields and out of people’s backyards and they’re starting to look for more food.
“So they’re going onto commercial properties, or into your home, looking for that food source because there’s a huge population to support.”
Mr Winstanley said last year’s wet winter followed by a milder-than-usual summer meant there was more food around for the rats, and that they likely had a “bumper breeding season”.
“A rodent that’s well fed is going to be a much stronger breeder, they’re going to breed a lot more and they’re going to breed healthier too,” he said.
“That’s why we’re seeing an increase now.”
Rats going places ‘they’ve never been before’
In recent weeks, Mr Hore has seen rat and mice infestations popping up in places he has never seen them before.
“One of my commercial customers showed me photos of places where they’ve had some mice come in – and in the time I’ve been looking after them [about seven years] I’ve never had this problem in that area,” he said.
“So there’s obviously a lot of drive for them to go into places they’ve never been before.”
The rodents’ fruitful breeding season has affected regions outside the capital too.
South Australian farmers have been loading up on bait to limit potential crop damage, with a licensed bait manufacturer saying demand was “far exceeding last year”.
So how can you avoid rats turning up in your business or backyard?
Mr Winstanley advised making sure your lawns were mowed, tidy and free of rubbish, and making sure you were not inadvertently providing rodents with a source of food – this could include left-over pet food or unsecured rubbish bins.
For people who already have a problem and want to take matters into their own hands, Mr Hore advised against using Ratsak – the rodent-killing blocks work too quickly, and rats will communicate to others to avoid it.
“[Rodents] are a lot like us – they can actually tell what’s making them sick,” he said.
“So if you have a product out there that kills them too quickly, they’ll actually relay that to other rats running around.”
Most cities face rat problems, but Mr Hore said the problem was noticeable in Adelaide.
“There are worse cities around the world, but in Australia at least, Adelaide’s rat situation is tragic.”