Yes, Muffy, even affluent Orange County has rats--but they’re not the same kind that inhabit the urban centers of the East Coast. Unlike their big-city cousins, the rats of suburban Orange County do not nest in buildings and do not show a particular affinity for garbage. And most importantly, at least in recent years, the local rat population has been relatively free of disease-carrying fleas (rats themselves do not transmit disease, even when they bite, and rodents do not carry rabies).
Orange County’s rats--known as roof rats, tree rats or fruit rats--are the outdoorsy type, spending most of their time above ground, in trees or scampering along utility lines. They nest in heavy vegetation, especially ivy, and like to eat fruit and avocados from back yard trees. Pet food, when left outside overnight, is another favorite nosh.
While there are no detailed estimates of the local rat population, one often-quoted rule of thumb says there are about as many rats as humans, which would mean there are more than 2 million of the rodents in the county. Orange County Vector Control maintains a regular rat surveillance program, and also answers more than 7,000 calls per year from residents about rats. These calls usually involve actual sightings, discovery of rat droppings (often near pet food), gnawing damage on oranges or other fruit, or, in rare cases, evidence of rats indoors. Vector Control usually responds within 24 hours and remedies can include placement of rodenticide, and physical alteration of the affected area (trimming back ivy, for instance).
To report rat sightings, call Orange County Vector Control: (714) 971-2421.
VECTOR CONTROL SERVICE REQUESTS
Calls reported for the first seven months of each year (Jan. 1-July 31).
RODENTICIDE BAIT BLOCKS*
PLACED BY VECTOR CONTROL
Total for calendar year.
* Bait blocks are one-half pound each, roughly the size and shape of a half-pint container of cottage cheese.
Source: Orange County Vector Control