Nova Scotia

Sydney neighbourhood losing battle with large, aggressive rats

People in the Cabot Street area of Sydney say they've been overwhelmed by rats. One resident is afraid to go down into her own basement. Now they want government help.

Some residents blame demolition of homes following 2016 Thanksgiving Day flood

A pest control company told one resident the rats are not afraid of people. (CBC)

Residents of a Sydney neighbourhood are seeking government help as they battle a big rat problem, one some blame on the demolition of homes in the area following the 2016 Thanksgiving Day flood.

John Sullivan, who lives on the upper end of Cabot Street, said he's killed 23 rats, including one that weighed almost two kilograms and "looked like a cat, to tell you the truth." Rats even gnawed a hole through his green compost bin.

Two doors down, Chantelle Anderson said she no longer uses her basement for fear of running into one of the rodents.

"I've heard them in the walls scratching. I've seen them down in my basement and the perimeter of my home," she said.

She called in a pest control company, which within days trapped more than a dozen. The company also told her this type of rat isn't scared of humans and can be aggressive, she said.

"It makes me feel scared," she said, "because they're toxic and I'm scared of the damage they're doing to my home."

John Sullivan says he's trapped more than 20 rats. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

Sullivan said he's been battling the problem for a year.

"I'm scared for my children," he said. "Scared for my next door neighbours. I'm scared for the public walking down the sidewalks."

He believes the rats are coming from two places — an abandoned property behind his house and nearby barns where horses are stabled. Others blame the 2016 flood, which led to the demolition of several homes beginning in August.

Food sources targeted

Richard MacDonald, of MacDonald Pest Control, says the flooding likely moved rats into new neighbourhoods and then the abandoned homes made ideal breeding areas.

But he suspects the bigger culprit is food sources like bird feeders and compost bins.

MacDonald says rats are chewing through compost bin vents "like a knife through butter. I've seen them chew through concrete," he said.

He suggests taking down bird feeders and covering compost bin vents with galvanized mesh cloth. If that doesn't work, he says pest control specialists can use exterior bait stations to trap the rats.

Some blame the rat problem on the demolition of homes in the area. (CBC)

Sullivan asked his local councillor, Ray Paruch, for help but was told it is not a municipal matter. Paruch said he consulted municipal staff and was told "that situations like this with rats, or bats, or bees, or raccoons or any of those items are 100 per cent in the purview of the province of Nova Scotia."

Paruch said either the Department of Natural Resources or the Department of Health would be responsible, depending on the circumstances.

Sullivan's local MLA, Derek Mombourquette, said he's been made aware of the problem and will see what can be done.


Joan Weeks


Joan Weeks has been a reporter with CBC in Sydney for over a decade. Many of her stories are investigative with a focus on government spending and accountability, as well as health and economic issues important to Cape Breton.

With files from Gary Mansfield