Boom time for Hull's rats after wet, mild weather
RAT infestations are reaching "epidemic" levels in East Yorkshire due to recent wet and mild weather, pest controllers have warned.
One Hull-based expert says 2012 is proving an "exceptional" year for rat numbers and states his company's workload has risen by more than a third, compared with last year.
It is thought the mild winter, followed by the wet summer, has created ideal conditions for rats to thrive in densely populated areas.
Aaron Metcalfe, who lives with his partner Louise Russell and their two young daughters in Bilton Grange, east Hull, said their home is infested.
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Mr Metcalfe, 33, said: "It's awful. None of us can sleep and our daughters are petrified."
The couple called Hull City Council's pest control team, which visited the family's three-bedroom end terrace last month.
But they have been told they must wait until Tuesday, October 23, for a "camera survey", needed to enable experts to find out how the rats are entering the property, so they can be destroyed.
Mr Metcalfe said: "A test bait was put down to determine if it was mice or rats. We have been told it's definitely rats.
"The pest controller told us he is extremely busy.
"We were told people are having to wait a month or more for rat problems to be dealt with."
Ashley Fenwick, of APF Pest Control, based in Sutton Park, said his workload has increased significantly.
He said: "This time last year, I was perhaps dealing with six call-outs to rats a week. Now, I'm getting called to 11 or more.
"It's an epidemic. It's been an exceptional year for rats.
"It's difficult to say how many rats we are destroying.
"The poison is ingestion and the rats tend to die underground and we don't usually see the bodies."
Mr Fenwick said the weather is the main reason for the increase in the region's rat population.
He said: "Usually, frosts will kill a lot of them off but last winter was mild.
"Then, of course, we had all that wet weather during spring and summer, which forced them out of their usual rat runs."
Mr Fenwick said the shortage of natural food in the countryside, caused by the miserable summer, was also a significant contributory factor.
He said: "There is not a lot of wild fruit on our hedgerows, which rats rely on, so they are migrating to cities in the search for food.
"The rain has also had an impact on the amount of grain in fields."
Alan Dale, of Beverley Vermin Control, said: "There are certainly a lot more rats in properties.
"They often get into houses by climbing up through drainpipes."
Responding to the Metcalfe family's complaint, Trevor Todd, assistant head of service public protection at Hull City Council, said: "We fully appreciate the anxiety and stress that having rats in a loft can cause, which is why complaints like this are given high priority.
"We responded to the original complaint the next day and have visited the property on four occasions during September and October to lay baits to control and help us evaluate the problem.
"It is now proposed to carry out a camera survey and, if necessary, a smoke test to see if there is a drain fault.
"We carry out this work free of charge but it does take time and we have to balance the needs of each of our customers. We will ensure any faults found are repaired promptly to solve the problem."
Hull City Council will rid homes of rats for free.
A spokesman said: "We carry out investigations into the cause of infestations, such as drainage faults, and ensure that work is carried out to rectify any defects found, using formal powers as necessary."
The local authority says the number of complaints its call centre receives about rats has decreased in the past year.
However, it says it is likely some customers may not realise the service is free and are turning to private firms instead.