Rat expert explains rise in rodent activity in St. Pete

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Residents in some St. Petersburg neighborhoods are noticing more rats around their homes and businesses, and people want to know where they are coming from and how to get rid of them.

A pest control expert Steven Winger, the owner of Natural Born Killers, said rats aren’t a new problem for the area, but it appears to be getting worse. He said he gets between six and 10 calls a day about rats citywide, including northeast and southeast St. Pete, Coquina key, and a lot of coastal neighborhoods.

“Renovation on a house can definitely stir them up. Houses in a neighborhood that have been excluded by a professional can definitely drive [them in]. Once they have no access here, they're obviously going to go somewhere else,” said Winger.

Dawn Earley lives by water in St. Petersburg. She said a rat slipped into her home in November, tearing into her furniture.

“I’d never had a rat before, but I never gave it a thought where it came from,” said Earley.

She said she heard the rodent and called a friend for help.

“He came over and he set two traps, filled them with peanut butter. The next morning, I got up. He was there, dead,” said Earley.

Pest control experts said rats commonly come into homes through the air conditioning chase, which connects to the house, and they can come in through crawl space. Winger said using a steel screen and foam can save you headaches later.

“You fill all those voids with the screen first. The biggest mistake people make is thinking that just the foam is going to do it,” said Winger. “Use a small amount (of foam), so you don't get it on the house or on yourself, and then apply it where you just applied the screen. Keep doing it until you feel the foam pushing back.”

Even the roof can give rats a place to do some damage, and Winger recommends clearing tree branches from touching your home’s roof. Winger said residents should do a check around their houses about four times a year.

“It's very important if you don't have the ability to check your own roof or to check these higher areas, it's very important to call a professional like myself and at least get a free inspection, evaluation and estimate,” said Winger.

The city of St. Petersburg offers a free rodent control program that offers inspection and a bait station in a location outdoors that can help out too.