For 19 years, Deana Veldhuis never saw a rat in her neighborhood. Last month, she spotted three scuttling around her cul-de-sac in a matter of weeks.
Now she’s declared war on the rodents.
The Lynnwood woman has rallied her neighbors in a “Combat the Rat Campaign” that she hopes will drive out or eliminate the pests.
It’s a battle that pits humans against rats. The weaponry includes traps, poisons and dog-poop scoopers.
Veldhuis is sure she’ll win.
“Truthfully, I hate them so much, that’s my goal – to eliminate them,” she said.
Veldhuis, who lives in a neighborhood just south of the Alderwood Mall, says she believes new building developments in the area have forced the rats out of their natural habitat and into local residents’ back yards and driveways.
Rick Zahalka, a manager for the Snohomish Health District’s food and living environment section, agreed that building developments might have led to increased rat sightings.
But he downplayed any reports of a rat invasion.
“It’s mainly something that annoys people,” Zahalka said.
Veldhuis isn’t taking any chances. She called the health district, and the agency sent her 50 brochures detailing how to fight rat infestations. She distributed the literature to her neighbors.
“I put a little note on (the brochures) that said, ‘Dear neighbor, I’ve seen three rats,’” Veldhuis said.
She expected people to be annoyed. Instead, she got calls from at least six strangers and heard stories from many others about their own rat troubles.
Residents said rats were running underneath decks, moving through crawl spaces in homes and chewing wires on cars. They were spotted in garages and on trees and fences, Veldhuis said.
“I don’t want to scare people, but this is getting creepy where they’re running all around,” she said. “It’s almost like they were becoming acclimated to living with humans.”
Her neighbors laid out traps and put out rat poison. They started picking up more regularly after their pets in the back yard (since dog poop can attract rats) and cleaned out their bird feeders. One resident, Veldhuis said, even called in an exterminator.
Veldhuis, a woman who admits she has a rat phobia, was so encouraged by her neighbors’ response that she asked for and received 50 more brochures from the health district. She distributed those, too.
Though the health district doesn’t keep a nose count on rats in the area, its spokeswoman, Suzanne Pate, said this is the natural time for rats to be breeding.
Based on health district records, however, there isn’t a local rat invasion, Pate said.
There were about 57 solid-waste rat-related calls at this time of the year in 2004, and there have been 52 rat-related calls so far this year, Pate said.
“There’s some concern about bites and fleas, but there’s no bubonic plague or anything like that in Snohomish County,” she said.
Reporter Chris Collins: 425-339-3436 or ccollins@ heraldnet.com.