One night in June, Gary (did not want last name used) was sitting downstairs in his East Hill home by Vernon’s Pleasant Valley Cemetery watching TV when he noticed a never-before-seen rodent in his back yard.
It was a rat.
“We’ve been here 30 years and never had them before,” said Gary.
“This one I saw running in our yard, ran up the fence and went into the neighbour’s yard.”
Gary said he talked to a neighbour, who didn’t seem overly concerned about the appearance of the rodents.
Then he called city hall, asking what Vernon’s policy was on rat control.
He said he was told Vernon doesn’t have a rat policy and that 99 per cent of rat calls to the city this year have come from the East Hill area.
“The City of Vernon Animal Control and Pound Bylaw has legislation controlling dogs, companion animals, livestock and urban hens,” said city manager of protective services Geoff Gaucher.
“There is no bylaw controlling rodents and it is the responsibility of the property owner to control pests on their property.”
So where did the rats come from?
According to Pete Wise of Wise Wildlife Control Services, a longtime ‘ratman’ who has been dealing with rodent problems in the North Okanagan for years, said it’s not uncommon for the rats to move toward the city.
“The weather is getting warmer now, as well, so they’re breeding, and breeding a lot,” said Wise.
“When they’re breeding that much, you’re going to get rats in your yard.”
Wise said a family member of his lives in Harwood, below Gary’s home, and has dealt with close to 20 rats already this year.
To prevent rats from appearing in your back yard – and the city says they’ve received calls from other areas such as Mission Hill and Middleton Mountain – Wise said the simple rule is to not leave any dog or cat food outside. Same goes for bird seed.
“Don’t be feeding your birds, that’s the worst thing you can do,” he said.
Wise he caught his first rat in Vernon in 1970 and they just keep expanding exponentially.
Vernon was in Orkin Canada’s list of top-20 rattiest cities in B.C. in 2017, coming in at No. 18.
Vernon fell out of the list in 2018, but neighbouring Kelowna to the south was in at No. 7.