Jan 5, 2023 - News

Rodents run rampant in Fayetteville

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Pest control companies and residents tell Axios there's a rat problem in east Fayetteville.

Why it matters: The animals can infest a home's attic and walls, contaminate food, carry disease and even spark electrical fires.

  • They've also been known to nest in car engines, which can lead to costly repairs.

State of play: The area's most common rodent is the so-called roof rat (rattus rattus). The vermin frequently infest locations from "about downtown" on the southern side of Fayetteville, north of Joyce Boulevard and east of College Avenue, said Tim Ware, owner of NWA's Rid-a-Pest.

  • They've been spotted in both residential and commercial properties since roughly the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The big picture: The pests are a well-known plague in big cities like Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago.

  • Rat-related complaints surged in New York City last spring as commuters returned to work following the height of the pandemic, renewing opportunities for easy feasting.
  • Some urban areas across the U.S. are looking to harness technology to help manage the problem.

Zoom in: The city of Fayetteville doesn't have an office to file pest complaints, so evidence is anecdotal.

  • Resident Jim Mitchel owns two houses, one downtown and one near North Old Wire Road. Rats appeared at both in late 2021, he said — the first time he's had such a problem in the 22 years he's lived in NWA.
  • Ware tells Axios he's had more rat-related calls in the last 2.5 years than in the previous 36 years. He recently caught 22 rats at a church.
  • "It's strange," Ware said. "I don't think we've done one job [recently] in any of the other cities."

Between the lines: Sources don't agree on a single reason for the boom but provided some possible explanations:

  • Some speculate rats migrated away from the Dickson Street area because restaurants closed or scaled back operations during the pandemic, reducing access to food.
  • Fayetteville's development services director Jonathan Curth said the city's topography means retaining walls are commonly used to stair-step land. During his career, he's observed the rodents nesting near these fixtures.

Of note: A commercial building at 2424 N. College Ave. and portions of the Hiway Inn at 1140 N. College Ave. — both on the east side of College — were demolished last year, likely displacing some rodent nests.

The intrigue: Ware said there's talk among pest control experts nationwide that the rodents are developing resistance to common poisons, though he's not seen evidence of it in NWA.

Be smart: The pesky rodents are attracted to food, water and shelter, Ware said.

  • Homeowners should consider removing bird or squirrel feeders.
  • Pet owners should remove food after meals and avoid spilling feed.
  • Eliminate holes and crevices in buildings that could be exploited.
  • Urban rodentologist Bobby Corrigan suggests mopping hot spots with bleach.

If your place is infested with rats and you don't have the stomach or luck to deal with them, custom extermination services start around $500.

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