In this multi-story series, the Advance Times shines a light on an issue of growing concern in Langley – its increasingly visible rat population. Please check out this and other related articles in this RATS: Friends or Foe series.
A sudden uptick in the number of rats and rodents in Langley has left residents worried about their health and so much more.
One longtime community resident said the problem has started affecting his daily life. Over the course of more than 20 years as a dumpster diver, Franc Vrstovsek has closely seen trash cans, unsorted debris, and junk left unattended long enough for rats to build a nest. These spots are where rats and mice usually breed.
But now, Vrstovsek said they are everywhere. Rats even managed to get into his home and damage his garden, something Vrstovsek “had never dealt with before.”
“The problem is escalating, and it has gotten to a point where you are starting to see rodents daily… and not just in commercial centres but also in backyards,” he explained.
Vrstovsek began noticing this sudden increase in the rodent population this past summer. He paid $200 to a pest control company, however, the traps they placed didn’t help much.
“I can’t afford to hire an exterminator, so I couldn’t grow anything in our garden [last] year,” he told the Langley Advance Times. “We can’t have our nice fresh tomatoes anymore, and have to consume the store-bought ones, instead.”
After talking to people living nearby, Vrstovsek quickly realized that the problem wasn’t affecting just him but many neighbours in his block and, in fact, many areas of Langley.
The community was ranked the 10th ‘rattiest’ city in British Columbia and 21st in Canada in a recent report by Orkin Canada, a pest control company. The cities were ranked by the number of rats and mouse treatments the company performed from August 2021 through July 2022.
This ranking includes both residential and commercial services. Langley’s neighbour to the immediate west, Surrey, was, ranked sixth in the province. Vancouver sits on the top in B.C. rankings. While the figures might astound some, one Langley entrepreneur who deals with rodents almost daily wasn’t surprised at all.
Bill Rough, owner of Advance Pest Control, has been in the industry for 11 years. His Langley-based company has 15 employees, six trucks, and operates throughout areas of the Lower Mainland, serving all kinds of clients – residential, commercial, and industrial.
On average, Rough receives 15 rodent-related inquiries daily, which is about a 40-per-cent jump from the previous year. About 60 per cent of these calls are from residents, and the rest of the inquiries come from commercial spaces.
The most affected neighbourhoods in Langley appear to be Willowbrook, Willoughby, and Brookswood, Rough shared. Vrstovsek lives in Willoughby. Although, to many residents, the issue became visible in summer, Rough explained that the rodent population actually started to rise around November 2021, and then somewhat decreased through the fall.
But, the numbers started to increase again last summer. Many, like Vrstovsek, prefer to grow vegetables in their gardens during summer months. The vegetable waste, if not disposed of properly, becomes an open invitation for rats and mice, Rough explained.
While gardening is one activity that invites rodents, it is not the primary concern. Rough said construction is the number one reason why the rodent population is now scattered all over, especially in Willoughby. “They are taking out a lot of forestry and greenery.
Rats are now looking for new places to nest, and [construction] is the number one reason,” Rough commented.
To learn more about this sudden uptick, Langley Advance Times reached out to Fraser Health.
Although Fraser Health does not track the rat population, they do record the number of complaints.
Data shared by the public health authority revealed a 533-per-cent increase in the number of rodent-related complaints “inspected” in Langley. Fraser Health looked into only three complaints between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021, but in 2022 they had 19.
Langley recorded the highest percentage increase amongst the 14 communities included in the data, noted Inderjeet Gill, manager of environmental health services for Fraser Health.
“These are estimated results, and may not be 100-per-cent accurate because the system hasn’t yet been updated with the data and there may still be some complaints that people are dealing with,” Gill said.
Even though the numbers for Langley are already higher, Rough feels there might be more to look into. He feels many businesses, especially restaurants, do not report rodent issues in their facilities to avoid negative attention.
“[Fraser Health] will receive more calls when customers complain to them,” said Rough.
Gill, too, acknowledged that complaints by residents do help Fraser Health with inspections. “We do get complaints that generate inspections right away,” he added.
The Advance Times also reached out to Teri James, City councillor and Downtown Langley Business Association (DLBA) executive director for feedback on the issue. James, however, shared that no local businesses have reached out to the association with any issues relating to rats and rodents.
The City of Langley said it only received three calls last year regarding rodents. Vrstovsek, who is yet to find a permanent solution to get rid of rodents at his home, finds himself feeling helpless.
If the issue is because of construction, then that’s through no fault of his own.
“But I don’t want to let [the issue] go for too long, because I am worried not just for me, but for my mom who lives upstairs and also because [rats are] in the walls… they could chew on the wires,” he said.
“I am just hoping that this gets some attention and that a lot of people who are feeling hesitant or maybe a little ashamed come out and admit that there is this problem going on, Vrstovsek said.
“Because I think it is a big enough problem that warrants some sort of action or at least some attention or perhaps a plan,” he concluded.