Smell a rat? Here comes winter

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
If you have recently heard the patter of tiny feet coming from your ceilings and walls, you are not alone.

Dunedin homes are experiencing an influx of rats and mice, as the inclement weather forces large numbers of rodents to seek shelter after a stellar breeding season, according to pest controllers and conservationists.

Pest control specialist DM Holdings director Dave McPhee said the long, hot summer had provided ample feed for rodents, leading to an explosion in rat and mice numbers.

"It’s been such a good breeding season and with the onset of the cold weather they’ve started moving into houses.

"They’ve come out of the bush and it seems to be an epidemic."

It was shaping up to be one of the worst years for rat numbers in the city, he said. Mr McPhee recommended cutting down any trees or bush overhanging homes  to prevent rodents leaping on to roofs. Removing food sources for rodents was also essential, and  care needed to be taken with compost piles.

"Just be careful with what sort of food scraps you leave out there."

The explosion in rodent numbers was particularly evident on Otago Peninsula, where native wildlife was being affected.

Royal Albatross Centre operation manager Chris McCormack said  70 rats had been caught in traps near the centre this year, an increase on last year.

Local conservationist Graeme Loh said there were an "awful lot more" rodents on the peninsula. He had been involved with managing the sooty shearwater  colony at Sandymount reserve, where no breeding pairs were successful this season. The colony had had high levels of predation. Hedgehogs and ferrets were suspected.

Mr Loh encouraged those interested in conservation and pest control to think about what they wanted to protect.

"Bellbirds for example — rats and cats are the issue."

He advised against putting pet food outside so as not to provide more sustenance for rodents.

People also needed to realise hedgehogs were carnivores as well as scavengers.

"They like a good piece of fresh meat as well."

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