Roof rats, a common presence in B.C. since the 19th century, are now finding their way to the Interior. File photo

Roof rats, a common presence in B.C. since the 19th century, are now finding their way to the Interior. File photo

COLUMN: Rats! Rodents reported in Fairview area

Dave White has advice for what to do if you have a rat problem

Dave White


Nelson has joined a long list of Interior communities that now have a population of rats. As the WildSafeBC community coordinator for the RDCK areas E and F, I’ve been receiving reports of rats in the Fairview area.

The species appears to be Ratus ratus, which has the common name of roof rat or black rat. Originating in southeast Asia, it spread to Europe through the Roman Empire’s extensive trade routes in the first century. It has spread from Europe to much of the rest of the world, first through ships and then trains and motor vehicles.

Roof rats have been in B.C. since the mid-1800s and are now showing up through much of the interior of the province.

The roof rat is identified by the fact it has a tail longer than its main body length. An adult can reach 13 to 18 centimeters in length. The colour is black to light brown.

Rats can still spread bacteria that cause disease in humans such as pneumonia, salmonella, rat bite fever and a variety of lesser known illnesses. The rat can also be a nuisance as it gnaws holes to get into buildings, causing damage. It also digs into gardens and chicken coops to eat animal feed, fruit, vegetables and even flower bulbs.

With a gestation period of three weeks and reaching sexually maturity in five weeks, a pair of rats can reproduce exponentially, creating up to a thousand or more descendants in a year. This makes eradication very difficult. Managing attractants is the best way to avoid the exponential growth.

Keep garbage secure, never put it out at night, and always use a rodent-proof container when putting it on the curb. Don’t leave pet food outside, don’t have a bird feeder, especially the type that distributes seeds. Manage compost by turning it regularly, adding dry grass or leaves, and buy or build a composter that does not allow rodents to access the contents. If you have rats, work with your neighbours to manage attractants in your neighborhood.

Make sure you seal up any holes into your house using wire mesh and expanding foam, as rats and mice can gnaw through expanding foam used alone. Rats can squeeze though holes as small as a toonie.

Trapping rats on its own is not a solution – the underlying conditions that gave rise to the rat population in the first place should be addressed. If you still need to trap rats it is important that the trap be sufficiently strong to deliver a quick, killing blow to the animal and that the trap be set in such a way as to minimize the accidental trapping of animals other than rats. Healthlink BC has some good solid information on trapping procedures and on the safe handling and disposal of the dead animal:

If you see or catch a rat, please take a photograph of the rat and send it along with any information you can provide to me by email: or call 250-505-6007. The information will be used to create a database of the distribution throughout the city which will help us better understand where our educational services are needed.

If you are experiencing a conflict with wildlife please call the Conservation Officer Service’s RAPP Line at 1-877-952-7277.