Tahoma experiences ‘Year of the Rat’
July 8, 2008
A pesky, domestic rodent is multiplying quickly along Tahoe’s west shore, but wildlife officials say the problem shouldn’t be more than a nuisance for tenants and property owners.
“We’ve been responding to calls about rats for about six months from Sunnyside to Tahoma,” said Connie Stevens, executive director of Homewood’s Wildlife Shelter Inc. “They’re mostly along the mountain side of the West Shore.”
The rats are a domesticated breed and were mostly likely introduced into the Tahoe National Forest after a pet owner set them free, Stevens said.
“People reach their limits and don’t want to care for the animals anymore. It’s unfortunate,” she said.
Spring and summer are prime birthing seasons for most animals, and female rats can reproduce as many as 13 young every month, Stevens said.
“We know they are breeding,” she said. “They’re not meant to be out there. It’s creating competition for other rodents.”
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All along the seven-mile stretch from Sunnyside to Tahoma, homeowners and landlords are struggling to keep up with the rapid reproduction.
“We caught five rats in just one day,” said Sarina Kriston, a Tahoma resident and owner of Sierra Mountain Properties.
Kriston manages several homes in the area and said she is concerned the rats may infest the vacant properties, and as a mother of two, she is also worried about the potential for diseases.
But Stevens says out of the rodents that have been brought to her shelter, all have been virus-free.
The only sickness that could generate cause for concern would be if people are attempting to rid the rats with decon poison, Stevens said.
“Decon is dropped in pellets, so hawks, cats and dogs could pick it up,” she said. “So if rats are exposed to the decon, it will go into the food chain.”
The home-bred vermin will likely ride out the summer, but it’s questionable how well they will survive the winter, said Jason Holley, wildlife biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game.
“They’re probably going to be a nuisance, but a few extra rats shouldn’t cause a large-scale problem,” Holley said. “People should keep their places as clean as they can with proper food storage and cleaning up wood piles.”