Linda Wheeler has lived in Scarborough for three decades. Every year, the grass grows green and lush on the front lawns of the bungalows that line Maywood Park.
The neighbourhood is nestled near Birchmount Road and Eglinton Avenue East. As the weather slowly transitions from glacial to relative warmth, a troubling question has dawned on the 72-year-old grandmother: Will they come back?
The “they” in this scenario are rats, estimated to be about nine inches in length.
“My heart pumps really fast when I see one,” she said. “I’m just petrified.”
Wheeler told Global News the rodents began to appear last summer. She said they burrowed beneath her veranda, close to the flower bed that now sits empty.
“Having these invaders come into the property, having a dog, having a granddaughter — it’s kind of a scary thing to put them out,” she explained.
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She hasn’t seen one since October. Her fear now is that the warmer temperatures will usher them back into her life.
Why the rats have taken up residence in her neighbourhood is not entirely clear.
“You don’t see any neighbours with garbage piled sky high,” she exclaimed. “Everything’s in these new cans that the city gave us.”
Dave Phillips has lived in the area for 12 years. His close encounters of the rodent kind began last summer as well.
Just last week, he spotted a small rat darting out across a neighbour’s downspout extension. It was significantly smaller than what he’s seen before.
He lives one street over, but shares Wheeler’s concerns. Each day, he observed four to five large rats bolting across his property or the road. They also pillaged his backyard garden.
“I’ve put those boards down. You know, those black boards where they stay on it and they stick? Well, these are bigger than that. So they stay on it and they keep going,” he said.
Two factors that can rouse rodents to relocate include a stable food source and construction.
Phillips and Wheeler both reside in Ward 20, Scarborough Southwest. There are a number of nearby construction projects underway, including a nearby house of worship and the Crosstown LRT.
Every year, Orkin Canada ranks the top 25 “Rattiest” cities. In Ontario, Toronto came out on top, though branch manager Ryan Wood told Global News that rodents can pop up anywhere.
Construction is the biggest factor that gets rats moving, Wood said.
“Think about it… If you’re living in your home and all of a sudden your home gets disturbed — it gets disturbed by flooding — you’re going to leave, right?”
“They’re like any other mammal. They’re trying to survive.”
When it comes to getting inside homes, Wood said all it takes is a crack or opening the size of a toonie.
“Look around your pipes, look around your foundation of your house,” he recommended. “Make sure there’s no cracks in your seals.”
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For homeowners with attached garages, Wood advises them to ensure seals on the bottom of their garage doors are in good shape. He also said clearing debris and clutter from yards can help, by ensuring the rats do not have a place for shelter.
Over the past 10 years, there have been 337 rodent complaints in Wheeler and Phillips’ ward. That includes mice complaints.
When rodents pop up on private property, the responsibility for getting rid of them rests with the owner.
City council has asked staff to conduct a study that will examine the issue of rodents in Toronto. That report is due this fall.
“We’ll give some background, an explanation around how rat issues are dealt with at the city and what mitigation efforts could be implemented, could be changed to deal with rat problems, let’s say around construction sites or new construction,” said Brad Ross, City of Toronto spokesperson.