Complaints to the city about rats indicate it could be another banner year for rodents in Ottawa.
According to the city, 291 reports have been made about rats to Ottawa's 311 phone line in 2022 so far.
While that figure is dwarfed by 2021's 1,197 service requests, 2022 has already surpassed 2018's 161 requests and 2017's 206 requests.
In 2019, 510 service requests were made about rats; there were 842 requests for 2020.
"I'm really unhappy about the situation. I don't feel comfortable letting my kids play in the yard," said Melissa Sagan, who has lived in Barrhaven for more than 20 years.
She said she's noticed an increase in the rat population in recent years.
Residents blame construction, food, garbage
Sagan thinks the rise in rats is tied to local construction projects and how frequently garbage is collected. She believes people should also remove bird feeders and other food sources from their backyards.
"I'd really prefer the animals be gone, or the rodents be gone, before my children are outside spending time having picnics on the ground or on the grass," she said. "I'd rather that not be beside a rat burrow."
College Ward's Eric Lapierre said the problem is getting worse in his neighbourhood, too. He had a rat in his garage last summer and spent more than $2,000 to ensure the wood-chewing pest wouldn't return.
Like Sagan, Lapierre thinks nearby construction played a role and believes work on the city's light rail transit lines has driven rats into different neighbourhoods.
WATCH | LRT construction pushes rats to Ottawa streets:
"I would say that it's definitely getting worse," he said.
According to a statement from Ottawa's director of water services, the city has a baiting program in some specific circumstances, but not for construction projects.
When the city receives a service request, staff will investigate rodents living on private property and address populations in sewers, as well as provide education to residents on how to properly prevent and respond to infestations.
'Nightmare' living with rats
But residents like Sandra Michon are nearing a tipping point.
She lives off Donald Street in Ottawa's Overbrook neighbourhood — an area, she said, that has a sizeable rat problem.
"We've seen rats run, middle of the day, through my house and my kids think it's a mouse, right? Like they want to pet it," said Michon, who has two children with autism.
"I'm sure you can only imagine what happens if one of my kids gets bit."
Rats made their way inside her home about a year ago, she said, although they have been a problem for some time.
Dozens of rodents live underneath her foundation, said Michon, who describes living with rats as a "nightmare" and is considering leaving her home altogether.
She said Ottawa Community Housing laid down some traps, but it didn't get rid of the problem and there's been no followup.
"Do you know what fighting rats sounds like? It sounds like there's murder happening in my house," she said.
"It's hissing. It's screaming. It's actually terrifying."