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Rat booms follows construction crews

In the past year, rat complaints to the city have more than doubled. The city is pointing the finger towards construction as the main cause, but thinks it's not that are more rats, just more people are noticing them.
Rats have been following construction crews all around Hamilton, particularly on the Mountain. (Mariposa Veterinary Wellness Center in Lenexa, KS/Flickr)

Where development excavates, rats escape. 

That's the message coming from city hall, addressing a sudden spike in rat complaints.

They're downtown, in the east end, Dundas, Westdale, and especially on the Mountain. 

"It's basically all across the city," said Robert Hall, the city's director of health protection. "We do get a lot of complaints on the Mountain… because that's where a lot of the development is."

Could be a couple hundred (rats), could be a couple thousand (rats)- Clint Durham, ICU Pest Control

Whether it is actually more rats, or just more noticeable rate, is up for debate. Hall doesn't believe there are more rats despite a jump in complaints in 2014 that more than doubled the average 48.5 complaints since 2010.  

In 2014 alone, the city received 121 rat complaints.

There is no one problem plaguing the city, rather, pockets of problems are caused by developments. 

Clint Durham of ICU Pest Control in Hamilton said when a home is torn down, sometimes rat colonies are discovered.

"Could be a couple hundred (rats), could be a couple thousand (rats)," Durham said. 

He wouldn't call Hamilton's problem an infestation. In fact, he wouldn't go as far to say that it's even a problem — just that there have a few more calls than usual, and for him, more are coming in the lower city. 

"There's so much opportunity down there, it's ridiculous," Durham added.

As an example of construction's impact on rat complaints, Durham cited a Burlington example where there was a spike in calls  after a farmhouse was torn down near Appleby and Walker's Line, revealing a rat colony that scattered into the nearby homes.

That home demolition led to more than twenty calls within a two block radius. 

Hall estimated if any area has more calls for rat complaints, it's on the Mountain. The city doesn't keep detailed geographic records for rat complaints, something his team will be looking at as they investigate the spike. 

Hall also said there are provisions in municipal bylaws that require developers to exterminate a colony if one is discovered during a dig, enforceable by a city work order that has a 19-day limit to contain the problem. 

Hall added residents could seek damages in civil court to attempt to recover the cost of getting rid of rats if caused by a builder, but said most developers would be inclined to be "good neighbours" and control the rat colonies before they escape construction sites. 

But before rats become a problem, Hall says residents need to take care of their own properties. 

"This issue of feeding birds and animals in their backyard just a major contributor," Hall said.

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