Roof rats can chew their way through some buildings such as wallboard.

For the second time in six weeks, “The Roof Rat Guy” was back in Ahwatukee, giving residents loads of tips on how they can combat the pesky rodents – which seem to have invaded the community in record numbers this year.

This time, Barry “The Roof Rat Guy” Paceley, visited the Ahwatukee Recreation Center, where about 100 residents as well as city Councilman Sal DiCiccio appeared.

Paceley became an expert on the rodents for Maricopa County’s Vector Control Department after fighting them off in Arcadia shortly after roof rats made their first debut in the Valley around 2002.

The folks who attended last week’s session, organized by ARC activities committee chair Joan Gillespie, hung on Paceley’s every word – just as the audience did at the Ahwatukee Board of Management-sponsored session where he last spoke.

Gillespie said the critters have been the subject of numerous horror stories in recent weeks.

One has had wiring in three cars chewed and one rat boldly chewed his way into her enclosed porch a number of times, once while she was sitting there,” Gillespie said.

“He experienced death by golf club,” she added, noting the rats caused somewhere around $600 damage to two of the cars and several thousand to the wiring of the third.

Another woman found a nest under her hood.

“The last two times I've entertained guests on my patio, a rat has dashed across,” Gillespie said. “I bought more poison and traps.”

While Gillespie said “I'd like to see Ahwatukians rally to control these destructive varmints,” she’s heard of at least one woman who can’t bring herself to destroy them

“She has captured rats and taken them across the freeway to Tempe and turned them loose,” Gillespie said. “She also puts out blocks of bird seed – which is roof rat food – because she loves to watch the birds. Now she and the neighbors have pigeons.”

Such conduct is anathema to Paceley, who has a laundry list of ways to exterminate roof rats that range from a few dollars to maybe $50 or $60.

“Roof rats need to be eliminated on the property they are found,” he told Gillespie. “If they move a pregnant female to another area, they could start a new infestation. When an individual is unable to kill a captured rat, they need to call a pest control company and for a fee they will properly conduct a disposal.”

As for feeding the birds, seed blocks “should not be placed on the ground or climbable access if the resident believes they may be prone to roof rat visits,” he said.

Paceley explained to his audience that roof rats make most of their moves in the dead of night and can chew through insulation and drywall in search of nourishment.

One sure-fire way to detect them, he said, is to look for droppings or fruit that has been virtually hollowed out. A few holes in fruit usually suggests birds, but roof rats will suck fruit dry because it’s tasty and slakes their thirst.

Paceley also said it’s important to eliminate things that might attract the rodents.

Homeowners should keep firewood, debris and piles of stone or brick as far from the foundation of the home as possible, protect their homes with steel wool- or wire mesh-reinforced sealant along any holes or cracks larger than a quarter inch, and install a thick weather stripping along the bottom of doors to keep rodents from entering.

He advised homeowners not to spend their money on expensive extermination companies and instead take precautions and use extermination methods outline on roofrat.net.

And, he advised, neighbors should work together.

If a neighbor refuses to believe his or her property is a home to roof rats, Paceley advised homeowners to at least adequately defend their own perimeter with traps and poisonous bait – and letting the rodents stay with their host.

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