2 December 2019

Rat infestations: We’ve had a rough year, New Zealand.

“A record-breaking long, hot summer has led to a tenfold explosion in New Zealand’s rodent population, with the country’s urban areas worst hit.” - The Guardian. We explore what's causing the rat infestations we're seeing, and how you can help to stop them.
Rat infestations: We’ve had a rough year, New Zealand.

This article was written in New Zealand.

Rat infestations were front-page news in 2019. We were a nation united. Our foe? A colossal spike in rodent numbers, especially in residential areas. Multiple news articles spoke of bulky brown rats (the big ones) and crafty black rats (the most common). Rubbish was scavenged and retaining walls were chomped. Cafés and shops were on constant high alert.

We learned that rats destroy houses to maintain their teeth – basically using pipes and ducting as tooth floss. We learned that rodents are urban demolition experts; capable of chewing through metal and surviving 15 metre falls. We learned that the size of our local rat infestation was not to be underestimated and all looked for what kills rats instantly. From our ceilings to wondering how to get rid of rats outside, it seemed they were on top of us. 

This year, we heard stories from all over the country. It was happening everywhere. Terrifying tales of foot-long ‘monster’ rodents in Wellington, chewing through dishwasher cables and wreaking havoc. In Mamaku Forest near Rotorua, a Canopy Tours guide found a mammoth rat nearly 40cm long – big enough to be measured next to a 1kg jar of peanut butter. The Auckland suburb of Titirangi was under siege from a Rattus rattus infestation in late June, causing the Waitakere Ranges Local Board chairman to make this statement: “The rats are going to be hunted and exterminated mercilessly,” said Greg Presland. “The rats are running rampant.” Tensions were high in Titirangi.

Why are we having rat infestations?

The mega mast

First, the Department of Conservation (DOC) has confirmed 2019 as a “mega mast” year. This means heavy seeding in New Zealand’s forests this autumn provides a “bonanza of food” for native species. Sounds like a good thing, right? Unfortunately, it also fuelled a New Zealand-wide rat infestation. The “mega mast” and subsequent countrywide rat infestation are sure to pose a serious threat to native birds and other wildlife. 

Climate change

Second, the warming climate. While city rats breed all year, they usually slow down during the colder months. However, climate change means that winter is warmer, encouraging rats to “get frisky”. Despite a lack of research specifically on rats and global warming, we can be certain of two things: rats reproduce at an exceptional rate, and they love warmer temperatures. In New Zealand (where four of the six warmest years have occurred since 2013) we can assume that rats are, indeed, ‘basking’ in the proverbial sunshine.

Human waste

Third, (and perhaps most inescapably our fault), is the amount of household rubbish dumped outside every day. If you’re wondering, how to attract rats - this is it. Each Aucklander sends about 144kg worth of rubbish to landfill every year. The North Island’s busiest transfer station is in Waitakere, West Auckland, which happens to be suspiciously close to Titirangi. Rats are absolute fiends for human waste in any form, whether they’re going for food or material scraps. Their favourite snacks include grains, seeds, fruit, and even chocolate.

Illegal dumping has increased in the past 18 months, especially in Auckland. It’s not the nicest, but there is things we can do to help! Picking up some traps, and getting involved in community pest control is a great option for helping to combat the rat infestation boom and an easy way to ensure rats keep out of your house.

The nationwide rat infestation was such a big deal, even the Brits decided to write about it. In this article by The Guardian, the situation is laid out clearly. 

“A record-breaking long, hot summer has led to a tenfold explosion in New Zealand’s rodent population, with the country’s urban areas worst hit.”

When the most trusted newspaper in Britain reports on our rat infestation, you know it must be serious. We need to be making long leaps forward in pest control technology in order to stand a chance against the tidal wave of hungry rats. That’s where we come in.

Trapping made Smarter!

What is the most time-consuming part of curbing a rat infestation? Without a doubt; the checking and re-checking of the traps. Setting up a trap is fun, but trudging outside in the rain to check it? Less so. Urban areas are the worst affected, which means it’s on us to help.

But, what if there was positive, instantaneous feedback from a trapper’s device, wouldn’t that turn it into somewhat of a game?

Hearing that quiet ding from the bedside table and smiling, knowing that your efforts have helped protect New Zealand's native birds – that sounds great, doesn’t it? And even better – our rodent trap is self-resetting – so you can cross your fingers for another strike or two during the night. 

We developed a rat infestation solution, the Smart Cap, a retrofit accessory which sends Bluetooth trapping data to your mobile device. Three hits in the last 24 hours? The Smart Cap will tell you. When were those rats caught? Time and date data, down to the second. The Smart Cap lets you know when your Trap has fired, sending an alert to your phone.

The Smart Cap also alerts you when the trap needs more CO₂ or paste, helpfully keeping you on top of your traps servicing requirements. How to make urban New Zealand pay attention to rat infestations? Turn it into a competition. It’s “Neighbours at War”, but “with Rats” tagged on the end.

The first of its kind - we’re proud of The Smart Cap. Upon opening our app, we see a heatmap spread across New Zealand, showing urban areas as the main centres of rat infestation. One of the coolest statistics from our app is the total number of strikes across the entire country. How awesome is that? As of November 2019, we have over 21,000 hits nationwide. This number changes all the time – check your Goodnature app for the most recent update!

Learn how to get rid of rat infestation

We see some awesome stories of Kiwis trapping their own backyard. Take Don Lees for example; a 91-year-old ex-horticulture teacher, still “doing his bit” at his retirement village in Gisborne. After his tomatoes were savaged by the local rat infestation, he wondered how to get rid of rats without poison. The solution? He acquired a Goodnature Trap, and began contributing to the nationwide effort. Thanks, Don! 

We believe everyone has a part to play. If you think your house, property, farm, or business could be a good site to get started, flick us a line below.

We’d love to hear from you.