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Rattled: It’s raining rodents as the chilling winter sets in

While it may be cold comfort, Wairarapa residents suddenly feeling under siege by infestations of rodents can be assured they are not alone – with eradicators saying the recent increase in vermin is just business as usual for this time of year.

“It’s definitely seasonal,” Conquest Pest Management director Shane Todd said of the rodent influx.

“A month ago, I was getting zero calls, and now I’m averaging about 10 a week.”

Todd said wet weather often results in the “displacement” of rodents and – coupled with the onset of icy temperatures – prompts them to seek shelter inside people’s homes.

“Food options are minimal because winter is coming on and they are looking for somewhere warm to set up.”

One rural Masterton resident told the Times-Age she has just evacuated her home office due to a rodent that had taken up residence there.

“It’s gone and died in the wall. And it just stinks so much – I can’t bear the smell, and there’s nothing you can do.”

And her recent discovery that a mouse has chewed through the wiring of a rarely used car should serve as a reminder to others to bait or lay traps in garages at this time of year.

“Last year it was cluster flies, this year it’s rodents,” she observed.

Although it doesn’t make her new, deceased lodger any less unwelcome, the plagued homeowner did concede cluster flies are marginally worse than rats and mice, because “they do nasty things like block up your vacuum cleaner”.

Todd said his current jobs vary from straightforward tasks dispatching “one or two” rodents, to more extreme missions where “you move something, and lots of mice go running in every direction”.

This year, Todd said, he has noticed more calls from north Carterton.

“It might not be a pattern worth noting, but there is a theory that civil engineering in the area has possibly caused some rodent displacement.

“There has been a lot of development there, and when you have subdivisions moving into paddocks, you’re right on the edge of their habitat.”

Pestproof Pest Control Wairarapa director Paul Chapman said homes on the border with parks or forests are “on the frontline”, and agreed the current uptick in calls is typical of the season.

“I can’t say there has been a difference from previous years even though we have had a wetter summer. It’s just the seasonal increase.”

He said he and another Pestproof employee are currently fielding about
25 calls a week between them.

“The typical calls we get in New Zealand would be for roof rats. They have different names – black rats, ship rats – but they are all the same.”

Chapman said the number one tip for keeping rats out of the house is to keep nearby vegetation in check.

“They tend to enter buildings from up high when tree branches are touching or are very close to the roof,” he said.

“Always keep trees and vegetation at least one metre away.”

However, once a rodent is inside, Todd said trap placement is key and suggested using an oily bait, such as peanut butter.

“Remember that it’s a very cautious creature, so its comfort is your best advantage. Bait the trap before your set it. Let him have a sample and feel safe.

“Then re-bait it and set the trap.”

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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