'For every rat you see, there are 10 more,' resident says as Mississauga neighbourhood battles rodent invasion
Residents call for financial help from Peel Region to fight infestation
A Mississauga neighbourhood is battling a rat infestation that is so bad, residents and local politicians are calling on the Peel regional government for financial aid to get rid of the pests.
About 70 homeowners in the adjacent communities known as Applewood Hills and Heights are reporting significantly higher than normal rat sightings since the spring — a phenomenon Peel Region staff say is due at least in part to a handful of new construction projects in the neighbourhood.
Applewood resident Marguerite Porter says she's caught about 30 rats so far this year.
"And of course, for every rat you see, there are 10 more," she told CBC Toronto. "They have so expanded into this whole neighbourhood and this whole area that now we have no way of really controlling it without having some help."
She says she'd like the region to offer bait boxes to residents who ask for them.
"This is wrong," said Athina Tagidou of the Applewood Hills and Heights Residents' Association. Her group has been calling for months for the region to refund at least part of the cost of traps and exterminators.
"We did not create this problem on our own. This has to be a partnership. We have to work together as soon as possible, efficiently and effectively, because this is not created by us."
Tagidou says residents also want to see the region use bait boxes at construction sites before work begins, and a stricter property standards bylaw to keep properties free of debris where rats can shelter.
At least two southern Ontario communities — Niagara Falls and St. Catharines — have rebate programs in place. Those cities will cover 50 per cent of a homeowner's extermination costs, up to a maximum of $200. Windsor provides extermination services to residents battling rat infestations.
The City of Toronto maintains that pests on private property are the homeowner's responsibility. Both Toronto's and Ottawa's websites offer residents tips on avoiding rat infestations. However, neither city offers financial compensation to homeowners who are fighting a rat problem.
On Thursday, Peel Region council will discuss a report from regional staff on the feasibility of a rebate plan, as well as other potential solutions to the rat infestations.
Last month, Peel staff said in a report to councillors that reports of rats in Mississauga rose from 54 last year to 74 so far in 2020.
"While rats can transmit disease to humans on occasions, the incidence of reportable rat related
diseases in Peel are very low," that report states.
Even so, Applewood resident Steve Burns says he's concerned about recent encounters he's had with rats on his property.
"It's definitely disturbing to me because I'm the one that has to go out there and try to catch these rodents," he said.
"I've been out there every night setting traps, baiting. I also have animals that I have to be cognizant of. So it's been quite the summer for that."
Coun. Chris Fonseca, who represents the area on both Mississauga and Peel regional councils, has been calling on the region to fund, at least partially, the cost of exterminators. She also wants the region to look into the possibility of hiring a contract exterminator to help homeowners who face infestations.
"It is very urgent," she said this week. "I'm requesting that those that need the support, get that support now."
At least one resident is unconcerned, though, even though rats are tunnelling close to her house.
Val Skinner lifted a flagstone in her back yard to reveal a series of rat roadways.
"But they haven't bothered me," she said.
"We rarely see them, and so I'm not overly concerned. I think that disease wise, they probably don't carry any more disease than a raccoon or a skunk or any other of the creatures that are in this neighbourhood."
In September, Peel regional councillor Karen Ras, whose ward is south of Applewood, asked councillors to defer Fonseca's motion, which called for immediate financial aid to homeowners.
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Instead, Ras's motion, which passed, called on staff to first look into the cost of a rebate plan and come up with information on other ways to mitigate Mississauga's rat problem.