Rats eat their fill of Pasadena barley field, and then head to town
Crops were left unharvested on farm field used for research
A farm field in Pasadena has turned into a giant feeding ground for rats, and a mounting problem for the residents of the western Newfoundland town.
The rodents came to town to feed on barley left on the ground from last year's growing season. Now, they're venturing into a nearby neighbourhood, and also getting comfortable in a barn adjacent to the barley field.
"I just looked in through the window and I said, 'Well, they haven't got inside the car anyway,'" said Harold Evans, who has been storing his Mazda MX-5 sports car in the barn for eight years.
"When I lifted up the hood, in the engine compartment there was considerable damage.… They've got into all the wiring, they've chewed all the wiring, all the hoses. It's a mess."
Evans said this is the first time he had a problem with rats. Before, he would roll the car into the barn in the fall, cover it, and roll it back out in the spring in exactly the same condition.
"It's a shock to me — it was. To come in and see what was done. I mean, I was hoping to come in and lift up the hood and say, 'Oh, no, we're good to go.' But when I lifted up the hood and seen that, I mean, it's crazy, it's crazy."
The apparent root of the increase in the rat population is the adjacent field with the rotten barley.
The field is owned by Green Acres Farms of Pasadena and leased to Hammond Farm of Little Rapids. Beginning in 2016, it has been used for crop study through a team of researchers with the agriculture division of the provincial government.
Researchers have also studied canola and winter wheat in the past.
No one from Green Acres Farms would comment on the rat problem.
Barley had not matured for harvesting
In past years, farmers said the informal deal between with the province would see the farmers provide the land while the researchers fertilized, sowed and harvested the crop. At the conclusion of the testing, the crop would then to go to farmer.
In 2019, the crop researchers used the field in question for barley. However, according to the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources, the barley had not matured enough for harvesting in the fall and was left for a long period.
In a statement, the department said an early snowfall in the fall prevented the crop from reaching full maturity, and the snow on the ground made any harvesting impossible.
The department says the harvesting of the crop lies with the farmer.
While it's not taking responsibility for last year's harvesting — and there won't be crop research on the field this year — the province has taken action regarding the rodents.
In April, the province contracted pest control specialists to lay traps around the field. Also, following inquiries about the field, the province overturned the soil on the field Monday night.
Dozens of traps laid
The Town of Pasadena is also taking action to curb the spread of the infestation. Mayor Gary Bishop said he first heard of the rats Monday when residents of a nearby street complained of rat sightings on or near their property.
The town then hired an exterminator to put out dozens of traps in the area.
"We have instructed him to take the necessary [steps] to do whatever he has to do to take care of the problem, to go ahead and do it," Bishop said.
Bishop said this is the first instance of a rodent problem in 10 to 15 years. The town used to get occasional calls regarding the town incinerator, which is now long gone.
Bishop said the town will monitor things over the coming days and take further steps, if needed, to ensure the rat population is decreased.
Evans, who will have his car towed to the shop so as not to risk further damage, said he is left with a sour taste. He said he and others have contacted the provincial government to see what will be done about the issue and what help will be offered.
"I think somebody should step up here and get this rolling for us," he said. "I mean, this is a vehicle that we spent our summers in. My little side by side, I called it."