Residents in areas of South Carolina are reporting increasing numbers of marsh rats, according to The Island Packet.
Local pest control organizations report sending crews to almost every plantation and roughly 50 to 60 homes per week in the area to catch the rodents and prevent them from causing damage to local residences. Some professionals believe because of warmer temperatures last winter, marsh rats were better able to survive. Meanwhile, the large amount of rain this year has provided the water necessary to support a growing population.
However, some local pest management professionals told the newspaper the population hasn't changed since last year, and the large amount of recent sightings can be attributed to high tides bringing the critters closer to coastal homes.
Whether the number of marsh rats has increased or not, the cold weather is sure to push these animals to seek warm havens, such as attics, storage spaces and other parts of homes, making it essential for homeowners to be aware of the pests.
Rodents cause problems for homeowners
The Island Packet states many residents in Hilton Head Island, Bluffton and surrounding areas are concerned about contracting infectious diseases from the rats. While there have been no recent reports of hantavirus, the disease spreads through rodent droppings, saliva and urine and could show up in the area if pest populations are not kept under control. The illness can turn into Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, which can be fatal, according to the CDC.
To avoid attracting marsh rats and other rodents into buildings or onto their property, homeowners should fill all gaps and holes in outside walls, around fireplaces and doors and along piping. It's a good idea to place trash in thick plastic or metal garbage cans with strong lids to prevent the critters from seeking food near a home.
Pet food should never be left outside and should be stored in sealed containers indoors. Homeowners may want to clean up trash, brush and weeds and trim their property's grass and shrubbery to eliminate any potential hiding places for pests. According to the CDC, old tires and cars should be disposed of as mice and rats may nest in them.
If homeowners find rodent droppings, they should clean the area cautiously and call an exterminator immediately. This will help residents prevent potential property damage and rodent-related disease.