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This article was published 14/4/2011 (3566 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

RATS are fleeing Manitoba's rising flood waters and at least one exterminator is warning homeowners to move trash bins off the ground and clean up backyards.

It's a lot easier to keep rats away than get rid of them after they show up, said Lincoln Poulin, vice-president for technical operations at Poulin's Pest Control.

"Right now, people are concerned with flood problems, not rats, but it's so important to check outside your house and get rid of any old piles of wood or garbage up against fence lines and houses," Poulin said.

The rodents breed fast and by the time the flood water recedes, a single pair of rats can generate rodents through an entire neighbourhood.

Calls to Poulin's Pest Control about rodents seeking higher ground are almost exclusively about rats this spring.

"The biggest one that people are seeing is the Norway rat. There are a lot of them outside the city, around the Perimeter at McGillivray, the Perimeter at Highway 59 and the Perimeter and around the Maples area," Poulin said.

Fields on the city's outskirts are soaked and in addition to rats, there are many field mice heading for higher ground, he said.

"There is so much water, and rats know Mother Nature. They know water can drown them, so they're seeking higher ground," Poulin said.

Last year, there were only a couple of calls a week about rodents, he said, but the exterminators are getting calls every day about rats so far this spring.

"We had one person come in and say, 'I don't know what to do.' They had pictures and they showed burrows up against a building -- 40 of them. It was out at a farm," he said.

Rat burrows are a sure sign of an infestation. The holes are about three to five centimetres in diameter, like tunnel into the ground. The burrows can be found up against the side of a house or barn, a livestock feed bin or garbage boxes.

"Rats like to be around humans because humans have garbage and garbage has food," Poulin said.

Less commonly spotted but also likely on the move are muskrats. As river banks are flooded out, their burrows into the banks are also being drowned out. They'll head for retention ponds, like the kind near subdivisions but they don't like garbage or humans, he said.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

The Norway rat

Adults weigh about a pound, with coarse, reddish-brown or grey pelts, white bellies and scaly, semi-naked tails.

They can burrow through a hole the size of a quarter, walk horizontal lines like tightrope walkers and scale vertical wires.

They can jump a metre high in a single leap, swim underwater for up to 30 seconds and up water seals, toilets or traps.

They love garbage. Wooden boxes with loose bags inside are rat magnets.

Use tight-fitting lids on garbage cans, put bins on pallets and remove wood piles or debris from fence lines and walls.

-- Poulin's