Toronto

'For every rat you see, there are 10 more,' resident says as Mississauga neighbourhood battles rodent invasion

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.

Residents call for financial help from Peel Region to fight infestation

Three rats peer out from behind a fence in Mississauga's Applewood neighbourhood. (Applewood Hills and Heights Neighbourhood Association)

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.

Marguerite Porter, who's lived in Mississauga's Applewood neighbourhood for almost 50 years, says she'd never seen a rat until five years ago. Now, she says, they've become a serious problem in her backyard. (Mike Smee/CBC)

"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.

Athina Tagidou of the Applewood Hills and Heights Residents Association wants more help from Peel Region in her neighbourhood's fight against an influx of rats. Some homeowners have reported catching up to six a day. (Mike Smee/CBC)

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.

Coun. Chris Fonseca has called for immediate financial aid for Applewood homeowners, who are hiring exterminators and buying traps in the face of a steep rise in rat sightings. (Sue Reid/CBC)

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.

A dead rat lies on a garden fork in a Mississauga yard. Peel Region staff say there's been an increase in reports of rats so far this year compared to last, (Applewood Hills and Heights Residents Association.)

"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. 

Residents of Mississauga's Applewood neigbourhood say they're seeing and catching far more rats this year than ever before. They're calling on Peel Region to provide financial aid to cover extermination costs. (Applewood Hills and Heights Residents Association)

"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.

Val Skinner, who lives in south Mississauga, shows some of the tunnelling that rats have done underneath her backyard patio. Even so, she says she doesn't find the rodents especially disturbing. (Sue Reid/CBC)
    

"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.

The carcass of a rat lies on a snow shovel. Mississauga has experienced an increase in its residential rat population this year, and residents are asking Peel Region to help cover their pest control costs. (Applewood Hills and Heights Residents Association)

"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.

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.

About the Author

Michael Smee

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Michael Smee has worked in print, radio, TV and online journalism for many years. You can reach him at michael.smee@cbc.ca

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