They’re a staple of horror movies, call to mind the old stereotype of women screaming while standing on a chair and they’re in the fields and parks all around you – although hopefully not in your basement.
They first came to the city’s attention in a big way last October, when CityNews cameras caught them scurrying around in a restaurant in Chinatown. The establishment was closed after rats were found in the window and on the floors of the eatery, prompting officials to take a closer look at the problem of rodents in Toronto.
Then last week, a Loblaws at Dupont and Christie was shuttered by Health Department inspectors after the vermin were spotted by a shopper on the floor of the grocery store. That resulted in the eerie warning to consumers to throw out any fresh meat products purchased there or any prepackaged goods that may have tiny teeth marks on the boxes. The store has since reopened.
The creepy crawlers have been around since the beginning of time, of course, tied inexorably to the famous plagues of history. But while we no longer have to worry about bubonic death, the hardy predators have carved out their own niche all over the GTA and home and store owners have to be constantly on the lookout for them.
“Unfortunately the rat situation in the GTA area is extensive, it’s huge,” notes Denise Rosen-Taylor, Pest Control Specialist.
“The influx is increasing on a regular basis and we’re finding the situation is becoming overwhelming.”
The problem: they’re relatively small, come out mostly at night, generally avoid contact with humans, find many places to hide and nest, reproduce quickly, and are expert scavengers who find sources of food despite your best efforts to keep them away from it.
For restaurateurs and supermarket managers, they’re a never ending scourge that affect lives and businesses in the worst ways possible.
“We are handling rats the way we always have and rats themselves are that big a problem,” explains Councillor John Filion, Chair, Toronto Public Health. “The problem is when you have rat droppings on surfaces where you’re preparing food and the managers and chefs obviously know that’s happening and they ignore it.”
The City of Toronto has some advice about what to do if you’re invaded by these perilous pests. Find their suggestions here.
If you have questions about a rat infestation, call the city’s at hotline at (416) 338-RATS (7287).
To check on any establishment that deals with food in Toronto and whether they’ve ever been cited for a rat infestation, click here.