Everything you didn’t want to know about Vancouver’s rats

Read at your own risk

May 25, 2016

By Eliot Escalona

The Vancouver rat population is adaptable, family-oriented, and growing, according to the city’s pest control companies. But rats aren’t just a problem for those who live in close proximity to open sewers and closed businesses. According to Chelsea Himsworth, head researcher with the Vancouver Rat Project, “the health risks that rats bring are always there, whether you’re in Shaughnessy or the Downtown Eastside.” And, yes, rats may even be patrons of your favourite restaurant too—the leftovers, anyways.

Rat Facts
Rats are infected with a number of zoonotic (animal-to-human) pathogens, such as E. coli and salmonella.

Hood Rats  
Rats are a diverse bunch, and in different areas of the city will carry different diseases, depending on what bacteria they’re in contact with.

StandingRat_cropMouthing Off
Rat bites can transmit streptobacillus, a common rat-related bacterium that can cause fever, rashes, and arthritis in humans. And yes, they will bite—even you.

If You’re Squeamish, Don’t Read This One
Rat urine can carry leptospira, a bacterium contracted by animals that can cause liver and kidney failure or bleeding.

Survival of the Fittest
No, you don’t have to like them. But you should probably give rats their due. “They really are able to seek out an existence no matter what we throw at them,” Himsworth says.  “If we never treat them with the respect they deserve we are never going to deal with the problem.”
Big Data
How many rats are there in Vancouver? We have no idea, Himsworth says. “As a port city, we have learned to live with them, and so it’s hard to detect their gradual growth.“ The solution? “A concerted municipal effort to track our urban rat population.”

We have put a man on the moon, we are sending rovers to Mars, we have computers in our pockets, but we are in the exact same place that we were 100 years ago when it comes to dealing with rats.” —Chelsea Himsworth

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