As people adjust their behaviour to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, species who survive on human waste face their own new reality.
With downtown restaurants, bars and kitchens closed, some rodents have begun exhibiting unusual behaviour, said Kurtis Brown, technical supervisor for Victoria Pest Control.
“All these rodent populations that have been developing – for decades in some cities – rely on garbage from restaurants, garbage from commercial buildings, garbage from tourists … and all of a sudden that stable food supply has been taken away,” he said. “Rodents are fighting each other and killing each other … and rodents are showing up in places that don’t typically have rodents.”
Downtown Victoria mostly has a mouse problem, according to Brown, with rats typically found more in outlying areas. He said some of the older buildings downtown have “astronomical numbers” of mice, many now without food.
“Some rodent colonies are starving to death,” Brown said.
He doesn’t want to cause a rodent panic – it’s not as if mice are organizing a great migration from the city into peoples’ homes, but Brown says he wouldn’t be surprised to see movement.
“People should anticipate a shift in rodent behaviour and that shift is more rodent pressure in areas that don’t typically have it,” he said, adding that he’s already seen an increase in the number of mouse calls to Victoria’s James Bay neighbourhood. He can’t say with certainty if that’s connected to downtown closures, but he does have tips for people who want to keep mice out of their homes.
“Sanitation is pest control,” Brown said. “Keep a clean and tidy kitchen space.”
Along with cleanliness and proper food storage, Brown advises locating and closing potential entry points.
“If they can’t get in that’s the most effective pest control there is,” he advised, with the additional, stomach-churning tidbit that mice can fit through six-millimetre spaces and rats through 12-millimetre spaces.
“Pest management is public health and while we’re focusing on all this stuff right now it becomes even more important, as we spend all this time indoors, that we’re not trading one disease for another.”
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