SAVANNAH - Savannah is a favored destination not only for tourists, but also for rats.
Roof rats to be precise.
Pest control service Terminix recently released its 2017 list of the top 15 roof rat-infested cities in America, based on service data from more than 300 branches across the country. The rankings represent metropolitan areas with the highest number of actual services for roof rats so far this year. Savannah was number 1, followed by Memphis and then Miami.
Roof rats, also called ship rats and black rats, have strong climbing skills and a hairless, scaly tail that can grow up to a foot long. Like tourists, they prefer mild climates of the southern and coastal regions of the country. Other rodents, such as the Norway rat, are also found here and throughout the nation, but were not the focus of the list.
“The roof rat is thought to be of Southeast Asian origin, but is now found throughout the world, especially in tropical regions,” reports PestWorld.org.
The city of Savannah contracts for pest control at dozens of its buildings, with rats getting prominent mention of critters to control. Even with monthly treatments under the gold dome, there were enough rodents left to make a Bay Street live oak tree a perfect nesting spot for a rat-eating great horned owl family last summer.
Savannah’s property maintenance department has not had any complaints about rats in at least a year, spokeswoman Michelle Gavin wrote in an email. But residents can tell plenty of rat tales. A post in Nextdoor requesting rat stories quickly produced more than 40 knowing responses.
“I do have tenants calling about “noises in the attic” which usually are rats, sometimes squirrels and every once in a while a raccoon or two,” said Dawn Phaneuf, who has also seen rats running along her fence at dusk in Parkside.
“They would start nesting in our garage when it started to get cooler,” she wrote on NextDoor. “But I haven’t seen any in a couple of years.”
Autumn is when roof rats and other rodents seek entry into homes after their outdoor food sources are exhausted. Roof rats are often tree-dwelling, and are more likely to enter a structure through the roof than are other rats. They climb wires or trees to seek out points of entry, such as holes around soffit vents, cables entering buildings, or turbine and box vents on roofs.
Jenniee Brannen in Twickenham calls it a rat show.
“It starts at dusk in the alleys of Atkinson and Hale, she wrote on NextDoor. “They do high wire acts, trapeze acts and occasionally Houdini acts. Come one, come all.”
Pest control experts advise blocking those entries to block the rats.
“Homeowners should consider the changing leaves a reminder that it’s time for a check-up on their home’s defenses against invasive pets, including roof rats,” said Paul Curtis, director, technical services at Terminix. “These rodents can cause damage to homes, with teeth that can chew through wiring, drywall and other construction materials.”
A key warning sign of roof rats is the sound of movement from attics or roofs, especially at night. That habit may mean that roof rats help Savannah achieve another perennial top 10 listing, that of top city for ghosts. Plenty of Savannahians find rats scary on their own, though.
Cindy McManus recently moved into the DeRenne neighborhood and found an infestation in her attic.
“It was awful,” she posted. “An exterminator had to come and get rid of them and seal every opening. Complete nightmare!”