Complaints to the city about rats indicate it could be another banner year for rodents in Ottawa.
According to the city, there have been 291 rat reports made to Ottawa’s 311 hotline in 2022 so far.
While that number is dwarfed by 2021’s 1,197 service requests, 2022 has already surpassed 2018’s 161 requests and 2017’s 206 requests.
In 2019, 510 rat service requests were made; there were 842 requests for 2020.
“I’m really unhappy with the situation. I don’t feel comfortable letting my kids play in the yard,” said Melissa Sagan, who has lived in Barrhaven for more than 20 years.
She said she has noticed an increase in the rat population in recent years.
Residents blame construction, food, and garbage.
Sagan believes the increase in rats is related to local construction projects and the frequency with which trash is collected. She believes that people should also remove bird feeders and other food sources from their backyards.
“I would really rather the animals were gone, or the rodents were gone, before my kids are out having picnics on the ground or on the grass,” he said. “I’d rather it wasn’t next to a rat hole.”
Eric Lapierre of College Ward said the problem is also getting worse in his neighborhood. He had a rat in his garage last summer and spent over $2,000 to make sure the wood-chewing pest didn’t come back.
Like Sagan, Lapierre believes nearby construction played a role and believes work on the city’s light rail transit lines has driven rats into different neighborhoods.
“I would say it’s definitely getting worse,” he said.
According to a statement from Ottawa’s director of water services, the city has a bait program in some specific circumstances, but not for construction projects.
When the city receives a service request, staff will investigate rodents living on private property and address populations in sewers as well as provide education to residents on how to properly prevent and respond to infestations.
‘Nightmare’ living with rats
But residents like Sandra Michon are nearing a tipping point.
She lives on Donald Street in the Overbrook neighborhood of Ottawa, an area, she said, that has a significant rat problem.
“We’ve seen rats running around my house in the middle of the day and my kids think it’s a mouse, right? Like they want to pet it,” said Michon, who has two sons with autism.
“I’m sure you can only imagine what happens if one of my children is bitten.”
The rats entered his home about a year ago, he said, though they have been a problem for some time.
Dozens of rodents live under his foundation, said Michon, who describes living with rats as a “nightmare” and is considering leaving his home entirely.
She said that Ottawa Community Housing set some traps, but it did not eliminate the problem and there has been no follow-up.
“You know what fighting rats sounds like? It sounds like murders are happening in my house,” he said.
“He’s whistling. He’s screaming. It’s actually terrifying.”