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Shannon Moneo is a freelance journalist based in Sooke, B.C.

Rat damage is a gnawing problem in British Columbia, attributable some say to the province’s 2021 ban of certain anticoagulant rodenticides, which can cause wildlife like owls to die after they eat poisoned rodents.

In January, I realized I had a rodent problem – a rat had infiltrated my 2020 Ford Ranger truck, rechristened “the Ratty Ranger.” Infestations like these have become a common problem. Across Canada, save for supposedly rat-free Alberta, rodents turn vehicles into homes, causing thousands of dollars in damage.

According to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), in 2023 there were 2,865 claims made to the public insurer where rodent damage was present, with the average claim being $2,983. This is an increase from the 2,646 claims made in 2022. I’d guess those numbers don’t capture the full extent of damage. Just on my street, I know of two neighbours who’ve had rodents in their vehicles. One leaves her car hood up to let inviting heat dissipate. When I mention my rat tale, I inevitably hear another.

My hackles were raised when I noticed leaves stuck on the outside of my truck along the windshield. Next was tissue on the floor and the disappearance of a deodorizer sachet filled with charcoal. I noticed the indicator light for the airbags was now permanently lit. Then one morning, when I turned on my car’s heater, bits of hair flew and I realized the stench of rodent urine had permeated my truck. The largish droppings found in the truck cab pointed to a rat.

I live in a rural area of Sooke, on Vancouver Island, a well-known rat hangout, so this wasn’t the first time I had weathered a rat attack. Pest control company Orkin has a list of Canada’s 25 Rattiest Cities based on the number of rat and mouse treatments it performs, and almost half are in B.C., with nearby Victoria ranking 7th.

Seven years prior, a rat built a cozy home in the cubbyhole of my 2010 Toyota Corolla. Fortunately, replacing the heater blower was an inexpensive fix, given that my car didn’t have expensive electronics that could have been damaged by rat chews.

Not so with my high-end truck. It cost $7,990 to fix, including parts and 30 hours of labour. Repairs entailed removing the front dash and seats to access the truck’s innards. Chewed wiring and damaged heating components were discovered. I was astounded when I saw photos showing how the rat pulled a pair of gloves and the charcoal bag into its lair.

I drove selectively during the seven weeks I spent waiting for parts to arrive before we could tackle the repair. It’s nerve-wracking knowing a rodent may pop out at any moment. Whenever I started my truck, I braced myself for further rat-induced damage, but by then I had taken preventative measures. I had placed two small jars of grated Irish Spring soap and a couple of peppermint oil-doused cotton pads, commonly believed to repel rodents with their scent, inside the truck. A peanut butter-laced rat trap sat under the hood. One large mouse was caught a few days later, but nothing after that.

Of the $7,990 tally, I was on the hook for $372 – the ICBC comprehensive deductible and the cost of an air filter. When I spoke with the ICBC claims adjuster handling my claim, he told me he’s dealt with thousands of rat-damage claims in his years with ICBC. It’s the same for the nine other adjusters. Lately, Toyota Tacoma trucks have become a favourite rat haven, he added.

Prior to my Ford Ranger entering its garage stay, a mechanic was finishing a rat repair on another Ford Ranger, the second time the owner had her truck in for rat damage. She had done nothing to mitigate rat-incursions and this second fix cost over $14,000. The ICBC adjuster said he wasn’t sure where ICBC draws the line when it comes to repeat offenders. Following my truck’s repair, a third Ford Ranger was next for rat remediation. It may be a coincidence, but it does make me wonder if more could be done when designing vehicles to keep rats at bay.

I phoned Ford Canada’s customer number and got a representative in Florida. I related my experience and the Ratty Ranger triad. All the Ford rep could do was open a file that described my concern. She said the rats need to chew on the wires because their teeth are always growing.

So I now have a permanently set rat trap sitting under the hood of my truck, along with the scented items. Eating is forbidden inside the vehicle. Windows are closed when parked. Even though I was born in the Year of the Rat, I vow to fight my ratty fate the best I can.

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