Fears of rodents reaching plague-like proportions could become a reality in the region as Marlborough feels the bite of a long, dry summer.
A lack of rain at the season’s end has created the perfect storm for the nasty critters.
A pest expert is warning the problem will quickly get worse if people don’t take action.
He warned the problem would not disappear unless urgent action was taken.
Spiderban Marlborough owner and pest control expert John Sigglekow says the “fully developed” rodent population has become a major issue early this season.
“People need to look at what they’re going to do around longer-term consistent maintenance for rodents going forward,” John says.
“As it gets deeper into winter, rodents are going to become more and more of an issue.
“As it comes into summer, it’s the devil in the deep blue sea.
“You come off the pitchfork and get thrown into the ocean with the ants and the cockroaches and the wasps and everything else that’s going to go berserk.”
John says a mega mast season, when plants produce a bumper crop of seeds and fruit, gives rodents plenty to feast on.
Five rodents can produce the equivalent of 75,000 droppings and 27 litres of urine within a year, enough to turn a roof space into a sewer, John says.
“Rat bite fever, Leptospirosis, there’s a whole lot of things you can catch from rats,” John says.
“If you get bitten or scratched by a rat or a mouse, you’re going to need some heavy antibiotics.
“Even cats and dogs that have confrontations with large, aggressive rodents are at risk.”
There are numerous known pathogens that can spread directly from rodents to humans and many more that can be spread by the mites, lice and louse the rodents are typically infested with.
Rat fleas spreading the bubonic plague is a widely known example.
The rodents are omnivores and also pose a real danger to native wildlife, not just eating birds and chicks but also in competition for the same food source.
“It’s pretty disturbing when you get into it,” John says.
He says the lack of rain meant rodents were not drowning in their burrows as they usually would.
“Also, because of the long hot summer that we had, very dry, without the necessary rain that was to come in later in that season. Which has meant that all the mice that would have drowned in the burrows, simply haven’t died out.
“They’ve all reached full sexual maturity and had their own babies,” John says.
He says Marlborough needn’t fear ‘cat-sized’ rats, but they’re “relatively large”, some of the larger rats can get up to 500 grams or the weight of half a block of cheese.
“It’s a big problem, not so much from a predatory point of view but more so for a hygiene and home maintenance perspective.
“The main thing is that you take the baiting around your property seriously so that you’re not just doing piecemeal.
The most common rats in New Zealand are the Ship Rat/Roof Rat (Rattus Rattus), and the Water Rat (Rattus Norvegicus).
Roof rats are incredibly good climbers
“It’s a busy old time for pest control probably for the next decade with the way the climate is changing” says John who will be selling rodent control gear at the Marlborough Home and Garden Show on 5 July.