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Construction, drought reportedly causing increase in Austin rat problems

Experts say in addition to new construction and the drought, the COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to an invasion of rats. Here's how.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: The above video, about a rat problem in Pflugerville, was published in 2020.

A number of factors have caused problems for local rodents – and now those rats are causing problems for residents.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that a mix of new construction, the ongoing drought and the COVID-19 pandemic has created an invasion of rats in the Austin area. 

Local exterminators and experts told the Statesman that rodents are having their habitats disrupted, forcing them into both old and new homes, apartments and any place else they can find to eat and breed. 

Much like the rest of us, the COVID-19 pandemic also had an impact on Austin's rats. When restaurants closed or had less activity, that limited the rats' food sources. So, they found new ones.

"When COVID shut down the restaurants, rodents basically had to move to the neighborhoods. And they're staying there," Rock Thweatt, owner of Roberts Termite & Pest Control, told the Statesman.

According to the Statesman's report, Austin Public Health officials have said they aren't aware of an uptick in rodent issues. However, local exterminators say they're seeing a rise in home infestations in Central Austin and beyond.

The Statesman reports that the most common types of rats in Central Texas are roof rats and Norway rats. Roof rats can be found all over Austin, but they especially like living near greenbelts and creeks. Roof rats weigh up to a pound and can be up to 6 or 7 inches long. When they get inside homes, they often live in attics, furnaces and even oven broiler pans.

The report states that older Central Austin neighborhoods like Bouldin, Tarrytown, Travis Heights and Zilker have had rat issues for a long time because rodents are drawn to the easy access that pier-and-beam foundations provide. However, the recent wave of teardowns and new builds in those areas have the rats looking for new accommodations.

Exterminators told the Statesman that rats are present everywhere in Central Texas, even if people don't notice them.

Read the Statesman's full report to learn more about the current rat issues and Austin's centuries-long battle with rodents.

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