Centralia Woman’s Property Overrun by Rats

A seemingly clean Centralia property in a residential neighborhood on View Avenue has recently attracted an onslaught of rats, leaving the property owners and county officials perplexed.

Joan Lankow and her husband have trapped many of them. Others were killed by their dog. In all, nearly two dozen rats have been found in their backyard in the past two months.

“We never had a problem like this,” Lankow said. “In the 40 years we lived here, I’ve probably seen two. I don’t understand it.”

Lankow contacted Lewis County Code Enforcement Supervisor Bill Teitzel, who is planning to make a visit to the site next week to see the property.

Teitzel said he occasionally receives calls about rat problems, but not usually in such residential parts of town.

“What I’m puzzled about is that it’s a high density area,” Teitzel said. “It usually takes some habitat (for the rats). I understand her concerns.”

Lankow said she is scared to take her two terriers out in the morning ever since one was attacked by a rat about a month ago in the garage. The rat was a foot-and-a-half long, she said.

“She was holding her paw up and her chest was all bloody,” Lankow said about her 1-year-old terrier Reba. “The vets counted 18 puncture wounds on her.”

The veterinarian bill came to $300 for booster shots and antibiotics, Lankow said.

“I’m afraid to let the dogs out in the morning anymore. I’m afraid they will get bit by another rat,” Lankow said. “I was ready to cry seeing the little one holding up her paw.”

Lankow said she does not have the money for an exterminator and is reluctant to use rat poison that may harm her dogs. Most frustrating for her is not knowing where the rats are coming from.

Julie Haberkorn, an office manager at Chuck Sullivan Exterminators in Centralia, said there is a spike in rat problems this time of year since the weather is getting colder and the rats like to seek warmth. Also, rats are drawn to moist areas and can get through most openings around a house.

“They like areas where there is a lot of moisture and, of course, there is a lot in the Northwest,” Haberkorn said. “If she is leaving cat or dog food or water out, that would attract them.”

Lankow has a hatch of doves and an arbor of grapes in her backyard that she suspects might invite the rats.

“They are going to love that,” Haberkorn said of the grape arbor. “Even wild berry bushes, they need to be cut back. It drops on the ground and there is free food for the rats.”

The fact that Lankow lives near many fast food restaurants and the Interstate 5 widening project are also possible drivers for the sudden increase in the rodents, Haberkorn said.

Whatever the reason, Lankow hopes the unwelcomed visitors are an isolated occurrence.

“Our yard is clean as clean can be,” Lankow said. “It just makes me sick. I hope we don’t get a bunch more of them. I know other people have had problems with them. It can’t just be us.”