While Whistler businesses have traditionally had problems keeping resident black bears from accessing garbage and food, a relatively new problem with animals and garbage is plaguing the Village. Local pest control companies are reporting an increase in rat-related calls and activity throughout the commercial core.
At least one Village restaurant was cited in a July inspection for "evidence of a rodent infestation," with "droppings" seen in storage areas, while sightings of rodents -also including mice - have anecdotally occurred in several eateries.
Jason Page, owner of Squamish-based Solutions Pest Control, said the company has done about 30 to 40 per cent more work on rats in the commercial Village area over the last year than it had previously.
"The rats have gotten worse in the Village area," he said. "Everything from commercial retail to restaurants (and offices) - pretty much everywhere."
Page said up until about 16 months ago, he had virtually no calls from the Whistler area about rats. Rats don't seem to be a problem in Whistler's residential areas, just the commercial Village, and rats still make up a relatively small proportion of Solutions' overall pest work, he said.
"I can count on one hand how many rat trapping jobs I've done outside of the Village area in residential houses," he said.
Tristan Galbraith, a Whistler-based pest control technician for Abell Pest Control, said though the rat-related calls have calmed down a bit in recent weeks, he noticed a spike in calls from Village business operators about two months ago.
"It's pretty much every business in the Village," he said. "It's been very, very difficult to control."
Galbraith said many Village businesses have underground crawl spaces that have seen an increase in rat activity. He sets between 20 and 40 traps on a weekly basis in the Village. About 15 per cent of Abell's Whistler calls are rat-related, Galbraith said.
Page said Whistler's rat problem isn't as acute as Vancouver's, where rat sightings and complaints are up this year. Winter temperatures in Whistler slow down reproduction and rat movement between the outside and indoors, he said.
He's mostly encountered roof rats in Whistler, a species that's known for being "incredible climbers" that are comfortable in trees and high places and that easily adapt to avoid dangers in their environment.
Garbage structures throughout the Village are attractive to rats because they offer shelter and a food source, Page said. Dense vegetation around hotels and some buildings, and trees within two or three feet of a building, are also conductive to roof rat habitat and access, he said.
With cooler nights and fall weather, both Galbraith and Page predict an increase of rats seeking shelter indoors over the coming weeks. Page said the top three things people can do to make their home or business less attractive to rats are plugging holes and entry points into buildings, keeping all areas clean and free of food, and controlling vegetation.
Dr. Paul Martiquet, medical health officer for the Sea to Sky corridor, said he hasn't received any reports of concern regarding rats in Whistler, and rats haven't historically been a problem in the area.
He said though rats are dirty and a nuisance, there haven't been any problems in B.C. with rats carrying diseases. Rats gnawing on wires and potentially causing fires is more of a concern, he said.
"The concern doesn't revolve around disease but the damage that rats cause (to building infrastructure)," Martiquet said. "Avoid them and be aware that rats like garbage, so clean up after yourself."
To access local restaurant inspection reports, visit www.healthspace.ca/vch.