A CROSSGAR man is struggling to battle an infestation of giant rats in his home.
Mr. Sé McKendry has caught dozens of rats in the attic of his Mary Street house over the past four years with many bigger than his pet Jack Russell at over 18 inches in length.
The large rodents have outwitted Mr. McKendry and Housing Executive officials by continuing to gain access to his property despite work to ensure there are no obvious points of access.
Mr. McKendry said he is baffled by the continuing plague, which peaked in November when he caught two rats every day, and is almost at his wits end trying to rat-proof his home for the sake of his wife and four children.
He said typical measures to deter rats, like cats, will not work in his case because the rodents are too big to be threatened, while removing insulation from his attic to eradicate a potential nesting ground had proven useless.
Despite his efforts, he said he is sick of settling down to watch television in the evenings, only to hear the rats rummage overhead with some of the larger pests sounding as if they are “dragging dead bodies” around the attic.
Although he was initially startled by the size of the pests, he said he is now used to seeing rats the size of cats. He says some of the rodents he catches are of a more typical size, with the latest rat, trapped on Tuesday, being “only 10 inches or so.”
After hearing news reports last week about giant rats being found in Belfast, Mr. McKendry is once again urging the Housing Executive to finally eradicate the problems following years of fruitless efforts.
“We do not know how they are getting in,” he said.
“I have tried everything from rat traps to poison, blocking up holes and having attic insulation removed to make sure there is nowhere for them to nest.
“Despite everything, they keep coming in.”
Mr. McKendry, who recently saw a large rat scaling the pebble dash of his neighbour’s wall as he left for work, said he has become immune to dealing with the pests and no longer has any fear of handling them.
“At the start I did not like having to get rid of them but I have got used to it over the years,” he says.
“I don’t even tell my wife when I catch them now because she would be away. I use tracing powder on the floor of the house to make sure they do not wander around the kitchen or living room at night and thankfully they have not done this yet.
“I have been told to move house because of the problem but we love it here and waited a long time to get a house in a quiet area of Crossgar. We have a lovely garden and the kids love it here, houses like this is are like hen’s teeth.”
Mr. McKendry said he has a couple of theories about why the rat problem began three years after he first moved into the house in 2010.
“The first rats coincided with the change over of bin collections from every week to every two weeks so that may have had a part to play,” he said.
“We are also close to a chicken factory and even though the skips of waste are removed often, I wonder if that attracts pests anyway?
“Whatever the reason, I am at my wits’ end. I have caught 58 rats in four years.
“I am terrified of coming down the stairs some morning to see a rat sitting in the house. I dread to see that day.”
Mr. Jim Murray, from the Housing Executive, said Housing Executive staff had last called to the McKendry home in January when the attic was treated.
“There clearly has been an ongoing problem and the Housing Executive will arrange for a further immediate inspection to try to resolve this problem,” he said.
“This will be looked at as an emergency.”
Pest controller, Earl D’hulst, has confirmed that rats can grow to around half a metre in length, from head to tail.
He said people get concerned if they haven’t seen one before.
“If they are given the right conditions and plenty of food they can grow big,” he said.
“My advice to people is to always look after their properties and their communities and keep them clean.
“The cleaner the environment the less rats and the better the quality of life of those living in that area.”