**Article originally appeared in Montreal Gazette, written by John Meagher
Montreal is known for many things, including great restaurants and potholed streets. But Canada’s second biggest city also has a growing rat problem.
An unseasonably mild winter has created ideal breeding conditions for rats and mice, and the spike in rodent populations is keeping local exterminators busy.
One pest-control company reported that business is up 22 per cent this year.
Some of the worst hit areas in the city for rodents are the West Island, followed by Hampstead and Côte-St-Luc, and Westmount and N.D.G, said Bill Dowd, president of Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control.
“It was such a warm winter, it allowed mice and other animals, which often die in the winter because food sources are scarce, to reproduce. … Mice can reach sexual maturity to start another family every 21 days. ”
All species, including raccoons, squirrels and skunks are experiencing increases, he said.
“We’ve already had our first litter of baby skunks, which is the earliest in 10 years, the second earliest in the 27 years we’ve been in business,” said Dowd, whose company operates in 75 municipalities in Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia.
“Often skunks will hibernate, but this winter they were really more active. Raccoons, too.”
Is Montreal’s rat problem worse than other cities?
“I would say every city has a rat problem. But with Montreal being an island, there’s a lot of water. We probably get our highest rodent calls for rats and mice in Montreal and Halifax.
“They’re older cities, with older construction in buildings,” explained Dowd. “Port cities are surrounded by water and that gives the rodent population a reason to survive and constantly be reproducing.”
Frank Pulcini, owner of the Extermination Control company, has also noticed increased calls for rodent control.
“We’re running around a lot more this year for mice than ants, ” said Pulcini, who’s been in business since 1980.
He said high volumes of construction work and excavation sites around Montreal are “forcing rats to the surface.”
Rats often appear around drainage problems and broken sewer pipes. “Wherever there is construction,” he said.
Dowd has some simple advice for homeowners to prevent rodents from entering their homes.
“Do quarterly checks of your home. Look around the roof and at ground level. With mice, any crack or crevice the size of a quarter inch, they can get into. So seal up those areas, screen vents on roofs, replace shingles that might be missing.”
He also warns against stacking cords of wood against the house, an ideal nesting place for rodents.
“Keeping a tidy house also helps stop rodents from being attracted inside the home,” Dowd added.
“Rodents are looking for food sources. If there are crumbs on the table, a mouse only needs a tenth of an ounce of food a day to survive. The tiniest of crumbs is all it needs. Rodents will even be attracted to pet food left out all night, when rodents like rats and mice are active.”
Dowd called raccoons the “perfect urban animal.”
“We’ve had raccoons that were intelligent enough that once when a homeowner left the garage door open, a raccoon climbed up and accidentally hit the button that closed the garage door.”
The raccoon hid in the rafters and figured out how to open the garage door.
“So basically, every time it went out at 2 a.m. it would hit the button and open the door by itself. The garage door would stay open all night. Then the raccoon would come back in the morning, hit the button again, and close the door.
“The intelligence of these animals is incredible,” Dowd said. “That’s why they’re thriving in our urban centres.”
He said mice are a nuisance as well.
“Until you find their entry point into your home, the problem is just going to keep coming back, time and time again,” Dowd said.