The four-year renovation of Toronto’s Union Station, partially completed earlier this month, has displaced many of the city’s long-time colonies of rats, forcing them out of their burrows and on the lookout for new places to live. Thousands of rats that have lived in relative peace in the dark tunnels beneath the transportation hub spilled over into nearby buildings of the downtown core, getting into turf wars with existing rat populations and pushing them further out into the city.
This isn’t a new problem for Toronto or other large cities where construction and expansion are commonplace, nor is it exclusive to the renovation of Toronto’s Union Station. In fact, many large ongoing construction projects, such as Metrolinx’s new Eglinton Crosstown light rail line and the Spadina subway extension, are upsetting many of the established rat colonies, sending rodents out in the open until they find a new spot to build their nest. Far from being a downtown problem, rat invasions are a city-wide issue.
Rats are a basic aspect of Toronto life, scurrying through subway tunnels and feasting on garbage bins. No one knows exactly how many rats currently live in the city, but experts’ estimates put the rat population in the tens of thousands. The greatest part lives in the downtown core, terrorizing local businesses and tourists as they strut shamelessly across the town in broad daylight.
As a species, Toronto rats are no different from those found in every corner of the world. In Toronto and surrounding areas, the species of rat normally associated with people is the Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), commonly called the Brown rat or the Wharf rat, and its more acrobatic cousin, the black rat (Rattus rattus). It if’s lucky, the Toronto rat can live up to three years in the city, but on average they barely make it past the first: poisoning and getting run over by cars are the most common ways city rats get snuffed out.
Because they aren’t fussy eaters (although grains and seeds are their favorite), they will thrive on the high-calorie, exceedingly pleasurable junk foods that are usually overflowing from our garbage cans. When the going is good, they start searching for bedding materials and places to build their nest, where they can get relief from predators and rear their young in peace.
Over the past few months, we’ve received numerous rat-related phone calls from homeowners and business owners living near construction sites, complaining about rat sightings. For property owners, it’s not just the unsightly mess a rodent does that sends them into a panic. Rats are destructive pests that will not only turn the property upside down in search for food, but also open it to other invasive species, such as mice and cockroaches. Here are some ways in which a rat invasion can destroy your home and business:
They can eat your house down. Rats must feed 15-25 times per day to survive, so if your house offers plenty of spilled foods, stored grains, trash improperly stored, pet or bird food in dishes, fruit and berries fallen on the ground, compost pile or worm bin, or even dog droppings, it will sure be an attractive target.
They can set your house on fire. Rats need to gnaw to sharpen their teeth, and they will gladly chomp down on insulation inside homes and buildings. Chewing on the electrical insulation may lead to fires and power outages inside houses and flats. Cutting their teeth on the thermal insulation in crawlspaces and attics may increase the cost of heating (the damaged insulation admits hot air in the summer and cold air during winter) and also the risk of fire.
They can turn your house into their toilet. Since a rat must consume 10-15% of his body weight in food every day, it will also need to relieve its bowels accordingly. One single rat may defecate up to 60 times per day. Since they’re not exactly toilet trained, your house will soon become sprinkled with rat droppings that will not only stink up the place, but also attract other rodents and harbor disease.
They will literally leave you without a roof over your head. Rats are adept climbers, and some species, such as the roof rat or the black rat, are especially attracted by the eaves of roofs, insulation, and wood. Because the roof is out of immediate sight, any damage could go on for years, and you could literally end up with rain leaking into your living room.
They will damage the foundation of your building. Rats will burrow beneath the floor or foundation of a structure that rests on piers or foundation walls, undermining the integrity of the structure itself.
They will ruin your lawn and garden. Rats cause major damage in your yard and garden, by feeding on newly-sown seeds, young plants, and seed heads on grain crops. In smaller gardens, they prefer consuming starchy plant parts such as bulbs and roots.
While you may get off with just a scare when you cross paths with a rat on the streets of the city, having them inside your house can damage your property and jeopardize the health of your family. Acting responsibly after recognizing the signs of an infestation will save you a lot of trouble and money in the long run.
General damage of a rat infestation requires significant repair and replacement costs. That’s why it’s crucial to reach out to a skilled pest control professional to determine the size and location of the infestation, access points, and the extent of damage and repair required. Contact your local pest control company to find out what you have to do to get rid of rats and have your property to yourself, rat-free and peaceful.
About the Author
Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid gardener.