Prevent Rodents

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Published 15th July 2009, 4:1pm

Department of Environmental Health (DEH) staff is asking the public to be vigilant about keeping properties rodent-free this summer.

Rodents are very prolific breeders. One healthy pair of rats can produce about 15,000 offspring in one year alone. Rodents, which are more commonly called rats, can carry diseases such as leptospirosis, trichinosis, salmonellosis, rat-bite fever, and many other diseases.

Besides carrying diseases, rodents can also destroy property. By gnawing electrical wires, they can cause fires. They also can cut through screens, doors and floors. Once inside your home or property, they eat and contaminate food items.

But because they are agile and adaptive, it can be difficult to prevent rodent infestation. They have a vertical jump of about two feet, and can walk along electrical wires. Rodents also can survive falls of 50 feet; swim several miles; and crawl through one-half inch holes.

Signs of infestation are droppings and urine odours; gnaw marks, rub marks or smears along walls; and burrows in the ground or runways.

The most common rats found in the Cayman Islands are the brown rat, roof rat and house mouse. These are easily identified by their colours. In addition to its brown coat, the brown rat has a white abdomen. The roof rat is blackish-grey, with a white abdomen. The house mouse is brownish-grey, with a brownish-grey abdomen.

Rodent infestations increase when people carelessly dispose of their garbage: For example, littering and dumping are prime causes. Other significant causes are tossing kitchen wastewater outside; overgrown vegetation; derelict vehicles; having discarded appliances and piles of debris in yards; dilapidated buildings, and leaving pet food outside.

Residents can prevent rodent infestation by practicing good sanitation. Property owners need to keep their properties clean, and to store garbage in covered containers until it is collected by the Department of Environmental Health.

Also, remove all old appliances, derelict vehicles, unused zinc and boards from your yards and properly dispose of them at the landfill. Cut down heavy, overgrown vegetation around your yard; and demolish all dilapidated structures, taking care to properly dispose of the debris.

Homeowners can rodent-proof their homes by ensuring that doors fit tightly. Using metal collars around coconut and fruit-tree trunks; repairing all holes in floors and walls; and removing all overhanging branches near your home also help.

If you need help in controlling rodents around or in your home, DEH offers rodent control services upon request to all residences and institutions in Grand Cayman. In the Sister Islands, DEH rodent-control services are available to residences and commercial property owners. When DEH staff arrive, it is important to co-operate by allowing them to apply rodenticide (rat poison).

DEH conducts intensive rodent control baiting once a year on all three islands. If you suspect that rodents are on your property, please contact DEH staff at 949-6696 to file a complaint.