AUSTIN, Texas – For years the number one pest concern for Austin homeowners were termites, but not anymore.
Roof rats have now taken that spot. Experts said their numbers have been increasing locally -- and in San Antonio and Houston over the last couple of years.
“Today it's everywhere. It's in Rob Roy, it's in Lost Creek, it's in every single neighborhood in Austin, Texas,” said Brian Kelly with ABC Home and Commercial Services.
Kelly theorizes when the drought of 2011 worsened it sent all sorts of critters -- including rats -- scrambling from the country and rural areas into more urban areas for food and water.
“We are seeing a tremendous increase, not only in rats [but] in squirrels and raccoons. And every year it gets bigger and bigger. We're out of rodent season and we had a summer that's bigger than some of our winters in the past years,” Kelly added.
The problem is those rodents never left.
“What we think is everything got pushed in, so you maybe doubled the population, and they're finding places to live around homes and under sheds and places where people are watering their lawns -- and they're surviving,” added Kelly.
Rats only need a quarter-size hole to gain entry into homes.
Experts said a homeowner’s best defense is to seal all holes around the home.
“Homes have holes in them. People don't know that. Brand new homes that are built, they just have avenues and these guys are good at finding these avenues,” said Kelly.
Calls regarding rats and other rodents usually go up in late October to late February.
ABC Home and Commercial Services is now beefing up staff for what they are predicting will be a busier than usual fall.