Rats cause trouble in local neighborhoods

Decline in predators, hike in development fuel growth in rodent issues

Posted 2/19/18

Rats are a problem as old as humanity, and Littleton is no exception. It's a problem that's become very real for Shannan MacDonald, who has lived in an apartment building at Broadway and Powers …

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Rats cause trouble in local neighborhoods

Decline in predators, hike in development fuel growth in rodent issues

Posted

Rats are a problem as old as humanity, and Littleton is no exception.

It's a problem that's become very real for Shannan MacDonald, who has lived in an apartment building at Broadway and Powers Avenue for nine years. Rats have moved into the area around her building in the last couple years, and have twice chewed through belts in her car's engine, MacDonald said.

“We suddenly started seeing giant rats around the dumpster in the parking lot in 2016 or so,” MacDonald said. “You'd see them crawl up into your cars. You could see the teeth marks in my belts, and a mechanic told me that rats like to chew on the rubber. Once a belt popped while I was driving my daughter to school.”

MacDonald said other residents of the building have had similar problems, and the building's landlords put out bait boxes and gave her poison to put out.

“I'm not crazy about the poison, because it kills all the squirrels too,” MacDonald said. “I've been more selective with it lately.”

Still, she said she checks her car engine routinely to make sure no rats are inside.

A Facebook thread on the topic garnered dozens of responses from locals, sharing horror stories of greenhouses and crawlspaces teeming with rats. One woman said she killed two dozen rats around her home near Slaughterhouse Gulch last fall.

Natural cycles drawing down the predator population as well as increased development activity may be driving reports of rats around the city, officials say.

“Simple things like construction can increase the visibility of rats,” said Monty Deatrich, environmental health manager for Tri-County Health Department. “When you disturb infrastructure, that can push rodents out into the surrounding community.”

Neighbors complained of rats after the demolition of the old office buildings that preceded Vita, the apartment complex under construction across Littleton Boulevard from the Littleton Municipal Courthouse, said Littleton Neighborhood Resources Manager Mark Barons.

“Other than that, we haven't heard much,” Barons said.

An increased rat population may be related to a decrease in the population of predators like coyotes and foxes, said Terry Carr, Littleton's animal control officer.

“We saw a big outbreak of mange among the predators a few years back,” Carr said. “It's a parasite that hits them pretty hard, and makes it tough for them to survive cold weather. It's nature's way of thinning out the herd.”

While rats don't carry rabies, Deatrich said, they do spread germs because of their garbage-dwelling habits.

While they can be controlled, rats will never be completely eradicated in Littleton, Deatrich said.

“Rats are part of Mother Nature,” Deatrich said. “There'll always be some out there.”

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