Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 341–350 | Cite as

Using experiential knowledge to understand urban rat ecology: A survey of Canadian pest control professionals

  • Chelsea G. HimsworthEmail author
  • Alice Y. T. Feng
  • Kirbee Parsons
  • Thomas Kerr
  • David M. Patrick


Rats (Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus) are among the most prolific and widespread urban pest species in the world. However, there is relatively little contemporary data regarding the ecology of rats in urban centers, preventing the development of effective strategies for urban rat management. Practical constraints associated with field studies suggest the need for more efficient methods of data collection, one of which could involve pest control professionals, who have considerable experiential knowledge of urban rats. The objective of this study was to gather data regarding urban rat ecology through a survey of Canadian pest control professionals and to determine whether such a survey could be useful for the collection of ecological data regarding pest species. Survey results suggested that rat infestations fluctuate seasonally and that there are a variety of environmental factors that may attract rats, particularly exposed garbage, abandoned buildings, and compost. Respondents suggested that rat infestations are most frequent and/or severe in residential areas, commercial areas dealing with food, as well as in neighborhoods of low socioeconomic status. The majority of respondents believed that rats pose at least a moderate health risk to the general public and to themselves, and they also believed that although poison baiting is the cheapest and easiest method of rat control, environmental modification is the most effective way to control rat infestations in the long term. Despite issues with low response rates, these results suggest that pest control professionals may be a valuable source of data regarding urban pest species.


Ecology Pest control Rat Rattus Survey Urban 



We would like to thank the Structural Pest Management Association of BC, the Canadian Pest Management Association, Mr. Sean Rollo, and Mr. Brett Johnston for supporting this study. We would also like to thank the following companies for their participation: Bioconcept Pest Management, Komox Pest Control Ltd., JR Pest Control Ltd., The Bugman Fraser Valley, Rid-All Pest Control, Abell Pest Control, Orkin PCO Services, North Shore Pest Detective Ltd., Tri-Cities Pest Detective, ABC Pest Management Consulting Inc., Richmond Pest Management, Ridpest Service Ltd., Raptor Pest and Wildlife Control. Thomas Kerr is funded by the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research. Chelsea Himsworth is funded by the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship program.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chelsea G. Himsworth
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Alice Y. T. Feng
    • 1
  • Kirbee Parsons
    • 1
  • Thomas Kerr
    • 2
  • David M. Patrick
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Population and Public HealthUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDSVancouverCanada
  3. 3.AbbotsfordCanada

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