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When Canada's big city rats were enjoying the summer weather in 2001

During the summer of 2001, Canadians were soaking up the sun, as were the rats.

There were more rats on the streets of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal amid a hot summer

More rats than there used to be

21 years ago
Duration 2:21
In 2001, some of Canada's big cities were dealing with growing populations of rats.

Canadians were soaking up the sun, as were the rats.

"This is the kind of census increase nobody wants," the CBC's Alison Smith told viewers on The National, setting the trap for a shudder-inducing story on August 23, 2001.

"The number of rats in Canada's biggest cities is skyrocketing, spurred on by this summer's dry, warm weather."

Vancouver was one such city where a lot more rats were scurrying about.

'They have invaded'

Vancouver was among big cities that were dealing with an increase in rat populations during the summer of 2001. (The National/CBC Archives)

"Thousands and thousands of them have invaded the waterfront and the back alleys," reporter Lynne Robson said, as a CBC camera showed some of those unwelcome city dwellers hanging out down by the water.

City officials were concerned about the risks the rising population of rodents posed for residents.

"They ... destroy food, property," said Domenic Losito of the Vancouver and Richmond Health Board.

"They can actually chew into house wiring and cause house fires, so they are a health and a safety concern."

A 'rat heaven' in Montreal?

A trend of growing rat populations in some of Canada's big cities caught The National's eye in August 2001. (The National/CBC Archives)

The rat population was also on the rise in the big cities of Toronto and in Montreal.

In Montreal, Harold Leavey, a local exterminator, said that some of the old infrastructure in the city was hospitable to rats.

"The sewage system is old and crumbling, rats like that," Leavey, speaking in French, told CBC News.

Robson said the addition of deserted buildings and garbage on Montreal's city streets created a "rat heaven" of sorts.

Harold Leavey, a Montreal exterminator, said the city's aging sewer infrastructure was enticing to rats. (The National/CBC Archives)

Leavey said the warm weather, preceded by a mild winter, made for perfect weather for families of rats.

But Robson said one city official suggested a change in the weather would eventually make things less favourable for those rodents.

"It will rain and fill the sewers," said Robson.

"Sometimes when we have big rains, they can drown," the city official, Claire Bourassa, said spelling out the lethal nature of the hoped-for scenario a little more explicitly.

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