Clearwater, FL-- Humans aren't the only ones in Florida getting chilly in this week's unusually cold temperatures. Local pest control companies say they've seen a jump in calls from people complaining about rats and other rodents seeking warmth in their homes.
It seems the disease spreading rodents are not only in search of food, but now are also trying to escape the cold temperatures, squeezing into people's houses through openings as small as a quarter.
"They're just like humans. They don't want to be cold," said Dave Bernstein, branch manager of Orkin Pest Control's Tampa branch office.
Clearwater resident Chaep'n Hurst is among the Bay area residents who unexpectedly found an unwanted visitor in her home.
"I heard a noise behind the couch that freaked me out, then I heard a whisk," said Hurst after spotting an estimated 8 inch long rat running through her kitchen.
"That kind of rat should be in New York. It shouldn't be in Florida, and it certainly shouldn't be in my apartment with my kids."
Management at Hurst's Clearwater apartment complex placed traps throughout her home, but as temperatures dropped this week even more rats showed up. She says at least three other neighbors have now complained of similar problems.
The news doesn't surprise local pest control technicians.
"When it gets under 40 degrees they want to get inside and get warmer," said Bernstein who has seen rodents get inside through small openings around where electrical wiring enters the home. "We recommend people look around their homes for entry points where rodents can get in."
Hurst believes that's what may have happened in her case and is now worried about her kids.
"The possibility of them getting bit. The rats have diseases. It's not healthy."
Hurst isn't confident the rats will go away when Florida's warm weather returns. She's filed a complaint with the health department hoping code enforcement will take action, and help to ensure the rodents are removed.
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