Nudge, Nudge: Adventures of a Victoria rat-catcher

Adrian Chamberlain mugshot genericChristmas is almost here. And at Chez Chamberlain, our seasonal surprise came disconcertingly early.

It wasn’t the traditional box of Turtles or Laphroaig single malt. No, it was the pitter-patter of tiny feet coming from the ceiling.

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Which means the rats are back.

This is depressing, as we’d been rat-free for a dozen years. So we called Kevin Davie of Pest Tech, the pest-control technician who had solved our previous problem. Davie not only sets traps, he possesses the uncanny ability to find the entryways of rats into houses, which he seals.

After meeting him, my wife told me Davie plans to write a book about his pest-control adventures. It occurred to me that this man — a 51-year-old with three decades in the field — must be chock-full of tales of the ratty variety.

He was. And as a special treat, dear reader, I’ll share a few.

A few Christmases back, Davie had come off a serious rat-killing jag. He’d eliminated a record 66 rats in the same house over three weeks. These bodies — as well as other rat corpses — were inside an “enormous bag” in the back of his van.

The problem was, one can’t just deposit a Santa-sized sack o’ rats at the dump. The dump people don’t like that. So Davie was pleased when friends offered their Metchosin property for this very purpose. They overlook a cliff that’s covered in brambles. The perfect spot.

He arrived with his giant bag of rats and a long-handled reacher.

“I dumped them out on the lawn and started flinging them over the bank, one at a time. All of a sudden, I heard this scream,” said Davie, who wore a ball cap and a Pest Tech T-shirt.

“I guess a couple were out for a walk on the Witty’s Lagoon path. And rats had come flying into their pathway.”

Sixty-six is a whole lot of dead rats. But that’s not the record. Early in his career, Davie and a colleague were dispatched to a farm in Pitt Meadows.

They found grain hoppers swarming with rats. The pest techs hatched a plan in which they surrounded each hopper with chicken wire, then tipped them over. They wore rubber boots with their trousers tucked in.

“We’d stomp about 60 rats in each hopper. We did this all day. We killed like three or four hundred,” Davie said.

How does one feel after such a day?

“Um … exhilarated!” he said.

As we in Victoria (a.k.a. the Rat Capital of Canada) well know, rats are intelligent and persistent. Davie said he once had a tough time determining how they were infiltrating a particular house. There were no obvious signs of entry.

Pest Tech detective work revealed the rats were jumping into a septic tank, swimming through raw sewage and then scampering up a pipe to a toilet in the basement.

One might imagine this would be an unwelcome surprise for those sitting on the toilet in question. Fortunately, it had been out of commission for some time.

“I filled the toilet with cement,” Davie said. “That stopped it.”

While he does all kinds of pest control, Davie — a graduate of Sir Sandford Fleming College’s pest program in Peterborough, Ont. — has specialized in rats in recent years. I asked whether such a career choice might adversely affect interpersonal relationships, like dating.

“For me, no,” he said. “I consider it a strength. I protect people’s health and welfare, is what I do. My job is extremely important, much the same as a doctor’s is.”

Davie explained that a doctor strives to make sure people are cared for internally. Pest-control techs, meanwhile, help maintain a healthy external environment.

Of course, 30 years of pest control does leave its mark. For instance, I asked Davie whether he ever dreams about rats. The answer is “yes.” He recently dreamed about a cat and a “bunch of mice” sitting on a fence. They were singing the Doors’ version of Alabama Song, originally composed by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht.

“And the cat was singing: ‘Oh show me the way to the next whisky bar.’ And the mice were going: ‘Oh don’t ask why,’ in this high-pitched voice.”

For the past six months, Davie has shared his pest-control adventures on his Facebook site. He hopes to compile these, add some do-it-yourself pest-control advice and then publish it as a book.

“The stories are encounters I’ve had that are interesting, funny, thought-provoking,” Davie said. “And everything in between.”

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