Rat Infestation: Follow the evidence

rat infestation signs dcThe last thing any commercial property owner wants to admit is having a rat infestation. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, it’s not uncommon for property owners and facilities managers to be in an initial state of denial when the first signs of an infestation present themselves.

After all, what business wants to admit they have a rodent infestation? But the best response to such a predicament is to determine as soon as possible whether a rat infestation exists and then quickly take steps to solve the problem.

It should be pointed out that rat infestations are particularly severe in urban areas. Cities experiencing a high degree of development, such as Washington, DC, are seeing a rapidly growing problem when it comes to rodent control.

The process of tearing down old structures along with digging up the ground disturbs the habitats of rodents and forces them to seek refuge elsewhere – most often in surrounding exterior landscaping installations.

Interior Rat Infestation Signs

Rodents will often seek shelter inside of commercial buildings. These structures provide warmth and shelter from the outside elements. Building interiors are also often a great source of food even if the business housed within isn’t involved in handling or storing food in any way. Humans provide unintentional, but convenient handouts in the way of food and crumbs they leave behind from snacks and meals.

Evidence of rat infestation as a result of food scavenging isn’t hard to spot. A trail of crumbs or torn packaging and partially-eaten snack food such as cookies, crackers, nuts, etc. is a pretty sure sign that your building is hosting an unintentional buffet for rodents.

Another telltale sign of a rat infestation is rub marks and footprints. Rats are known for their poor eyesight and like a blind person, will use touch sensation to guide their way. This will result in dark marks left behind on baseboard molding and drywall from the grease and grime on their fur.

Similarly, the presence of rats can often be detected by footprints and even tail marks in dust and dirt covered flooring. An old exterminator's trick is to sprinkle floor surfaces with flour or talcum powder and later check back for rodent tracks.

Acoustical evidence is one of the more annoying as well as unnerving signs of the presence of rodents. The telltale sounds of scurrying and scratching inside walls and along drop ceilings is frightening on several levels. Some facility managers might prefer to think their building is inhabited by the spirits of the departed rather than by rodents as disturbing as these sounds can be! The sound of rats in the walls can have an adverse impact on staff productivity to say nothing of the negative impression it will leave on guests and customers patronizing your business.

Remnants of articles used as nesting material for rodents are another indication of their presence indoors. Shredded pieces of paper, cardboard, and cloth should raise suspicion. Rats will also gnaw on materials such as drywall, wood, and even items containing metal such as interior wiring. They do this in order to wear down their teeth which are constantly growing.

Gnawed electrical wiring can present a fire hazard if exposed conductors should come in contact and cause an electrical short. Unfortunately, this kind of rodent damage is often hidden inside walls and isn’t discovered until it’s too late.

The strongest evidence of a rat infestation short of visual contact is the presence of rodent droppings. Rodent excrement is certainly not a pleasant topic of conversation, but it’s a sign that should not be ignored. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that simply cleaning up after them will make the problem disappear!

Exterior Rat Infestation Signs

The exterior of your commercial property should not be overlooked when it comes to seeking signs of a rodent infestation. Rodents travel to your facility from the outside and will often establish a “beachhead” in exterior landscaping where they will build nests. From there, they will “go forth and multiply.” Access to the interior of your building by rodents is then a simple matter of them finding the narrowest of openings in its exterior. An adult rat can slither through a hole no larger than a quarter!

Evidence of an exterior rodent infestation typically takes the form of disturbed soil, mulch, and plant material. Rodents will burrow into the ground to build nests. They will also burrow under concrete planter walls and into the soil of the planter to build their nests. The excavated soil, along with plant matter, will often be clearly visible on the ground nearby exterior landscaping installations (see photos on this page).

Once burrowed into planters, garden beds, and lawns, rats will make themselves right at home. After dark, they will scurry out to scavenge food from dumpsters and trash cans only a stone’s throw away from where they’ve built their nests in your exterior landscaping. When the weather turns colder or when food sources become scarcer, then adjacent buildings become an inviting destination for rats to expand their habitat or migrate to a winter home.

If you’ve become a victim of a rat infestation, the first thing to do is stay calm. It’s an all too common problem in urban areas such as DC. It’s also vital not to ignore the evidence. Next, you need to enlist the expert assistance of a company that is skilled in reading the evidence and following all leads – both inside and out.

Please submit a request for a free, no-obligation assessment and quote on our Commercial Rodent Control page.

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