December 16, 2017

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Weird winter has brought rodent boom

'Staggering' increase, pest-control expert says

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/2/2016 (680 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

My wife and I were out with another couple for an after-dinner drink at a well-appointed downtown cocktail lounge the other night when an uninvited guest made an uninvited appearance.

“Eek, a mouse!’

Later, when I thought about it, that rodent on the run was the pest-threat equivalent of a canary in coal mine.

So this week I called Poulin’s Pest Control Services and Orkin Canada, two of the city’s leading pest control companies, to see if what we saw is what we’re getting in numbers larger than normal.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/2/2016 (680 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

My wife and I were out with another couple for an after-dinner drink at a well-appointed downtown cocktail lounge the other night when an uninvited guest made an uninvited appearance.

"Eek, a mouse!’

Later, when I thought about it, that rodent on the run was the pest-threat equivalent of a canary in coal mine.

So this week I called Poulin’s Pest Control Services and Orkin Canada, two of the city’s leading pest control companies, to see if what we saw is what we’re getting in numbers larger than normal.

And sure enough, that mouse was a canary.

Clint Rosevear is a veteran of the local pest-control scene, who’s been watching the weather over the years and seeing how it affects the business. He half-jokingly calls himself "The Farmer’s Almanac of Pests.’ More officially, he’s the area manager for Orkin.

"We’re definitely seeing very, very high rodent activity,’ Rosevear said Wednesday when I called.

How high?

Based on a combination of calls and trap counts, Rosevear estimates about 40 per cent higher than normal winter numbers of rodents, and we all know how abnormal this winter has been.

"It’s a huge increase that we’re seeing,’ he said. "Staggering.’

Over at Poulin’s, a spokesman had a more exact measurement, although it was based directly on calls for service, not rodent numbers. 

Up 20 per cent over last season.

And the reason our mice numbers are gigantic this season is?

Our weird winter weather, of course.

Rosevear sensed it was going to be mild based on the height of the wasp nests he noticed last year. They weren’t built high.

"And when they’re not built high, that typically tells me the winter is going to be more mild.’

Anyway, Rosevear said he hasn’t seen such a jump in the number of rodents since another relatively mild winter; the one that produced the Flood of the Century in the spring of 1997.

The Farmer’s Almanac of Pests isn’t predicting an avalanche of snow in the coming months or a flood this spring.

"What I’m saying is those weather patterns from ’96-’97, to me, are very similar to the patterns we’re having for 2015, 2016.’

This year’s run of rodents began, as he was suggesting, with the start of another mild winter.

"And then all of a sudden we got this foot of snow that dropped, more or less overnight,’ he recalled.

"I remember driving into work that day thinking this is going to create a real spike in overall pest populations.’

That, he said, is because that dump of snow insulated the ground and created a perfect place and time for mice and voles to make their ideal outdoor winter homes. So when it did get cold, Rosevear explained, there wasn’t the normal winter kill of rodents.

Hence, the big bump in numbers.

And the more rodents outside, the more there are inside, he said.

"They don’t want to be outside,’ Rosevear said. "So if they can find a breach, a way to get in, they’re going to take advantage of that.’ 

Of course, once inside, they make themselves at home in our homes, and raise their families in a place where the cold won’t kill them.

Families?

"Mice are going to have litters of five to eight pups on a regular basis,’ Rosevear said.

How regular?

I asked that in a tone of dread because of my denial of the droppings along my basement window ledges.

"Well, the gestation period is 19 to 21 days.’ Rosevear said. "And then they will be back in heat in 24 hours. Ready to get pregnant again.’

Oh, but there’s more.

The way the winter has unfolded this year has done more than create the perfect winter for a mouse in your house.

"It also means a large increase in occasional and invading pests,’ the Farmers Almanac of Pests said.

Which means?

"We’re going to be seeing a real pest-filled summer, so to speak.’

What kind of pests.

"Ants,’ Rosevear said.

Along with ground beetles and other creepy-crawlies that like to invade our homes.

Oh, but there’s even more. 

If we have a normal spring, meaning one without a surprise really cold snap, come later summer and fall we’re going to be stung by a big blitz of those flying patio super pests. 

"Eek, a wasp!’

gordon.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Gordon Sinclair Jr..

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