When Dave Grossklaus discovered the body of a rat floating inside his swimming pool in northeast Mesa’s Orange Groves neighborhood in June, he fished it out and didn’t think anything of it.
Until he spoke with his neighbor, Tom Duffy.
Duffy had written up an alert in the neighborhood’s Orange Groves Report, warning people that they could have a rat problem on their hands, or at least in their yards. Not just any rat problem, but roof rats.
Yes, roof rats that have been widely known throughout east Phoenix for eating citrus in the spring, turned up in Tempe last year, and now have invaded Mesa in late summer, according to information from the city, which is in the process of doing community outreach to quell the unwanted rodents in the neighborhood off Val Vista and Brown roads near Mountain View High School.
“He (Duffy) told me that he had caught 12 of them in 30 days,” Grossklaus said. “We all have citrus (grapefruit and navel oranges), and Tom told me that he was noticing holes in his citrus on the ground. I had holes in mine, too, but I thought it was from birds. I looked at it and then looked at the citrus on the Maricopa County Vector Control website, (and) I saw the same thing — distinctive holes where they were eating the citrus.”
So what did Grossklaus do?
“I called my exterminator, and he told me to put a vector trap out and put a piece of a Snickers candy bar in it,” Grossklaus said. “Since June, I’ve caught six of them. It seems like I’ve been catching one every other week. We’ve got an issue here.”
Now, residents are turning to the city for help to stave off the invasion of roof rats -- a nocturnal rodent ranging 13 to 18 inches long that is shy of people. Roof rats can cause damage to homes, including wiring around awnings and fixtures in attics as they find a place to nest in the winter months while waiting for the citrus season.
The black or brown roof rats have an Asian lineage. They first emerged about 10 years ago in the east Phoenix Arcadia neighborhood after being unknowingly transported to the Valley on fruit trucks from coastal states such as California, Washington, Texas and Florida.
Last year, Tempe residents began voicing concerns about them in the Rural-Geneva neighborhood and that city also hosted neighborhood meetings to educate people in how to deal with the rodents: Keep the lids on your garbage cans and make sure your trees are trimmed at least four feet away from the house. Also, keep any amounts of citrus off of the roof of your residence as well as out of the yard.
Other signs that roof rats are taking up residence in one’s yard include torn-up places in the yard where they may nest, agitated pets, and gnawing sounds in your walls or in an attic.
Representatives from Mesa acknowledged they know there is a roof rat problem in the Orange Groves area, and are coordinating efforts with its community outreach department to educate people on how to combat the invasion of critters.
However, the city has yet to schedule any neighborhood meetings to address the issue.
“I thought it was a matter of time before they came to Mesa,” Grossklaus said. “The concern also is that it could become a health problem.”
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