AUSTIN, Texas — Note: Some of the photos in this article have been blurred because they include sensitive content.
You know what they say: everything is bigger in Texas. Sometimes, that includes the rats.
But are rodents starting to pop up more because of the COVID-19 pandemic?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a page on its website titled "Rodent Control." It says that since rodents rely on the food generated by restaurants and other commercial establishments currently closed to help limit the spread of COVID-19, "Some jurisdictions have reported an increase in rodent activity as rodents search for new sources of food. Environmental health and rodent control programs may see an increase in service requests related to rodents and reports of unusual or aggressive rodent behavior."
What one Central Texas resident has seen
Pflugerville resident Jodie Alston grew up in Central Texas, graduated from Pflugerville High School and recently found herself back in the area after leaving for a few years. She's used to Texas-sized rodents.
"Everything that is crawling and frying in Texas, I'm used to it," Alston told KVUE on Monday.
She said she's lived in her Pflugerville home in the Edgewater neighborhood for around a year now and started seeing rats in her yard back in mid-July.
"Having family here for over 30 years, we’ve not encountered rats to this size and this volume that just will not go away. There’s nothing you can do to stop them," Alston said.
Alston sent KVUE nine photos of rats that she has trapped in her yard. But she estimates she's caught around 20 since she first started seeing them.
"I wake up, I go do my three-mile walk and I clean up all the dead rats in my yard," Alston said.
She contacted pest control and they provided her with a bait box, a black box with holes in it that holds a sort of poison for rats. But after two weeks, she said the problem continued.
"They continued to come, night after night," Alston said.
She pointed out that she knows her fence line runs right up to an open field and is next to Timmerman Elementary School, so she's aware some pests will be out and about. But she believes the impacts from the pandemic could be playing a role in why the rodents are running rampant.
"The kids haven’t been at school, we haven’t had football games, so these trash dumpsters are empty. They’re looking for food, they’re looking for water so now they’re going to try to penetrate our homes," Alston said.
She said her goal is to raise awareness for her neighbors and others who may experience the same issue.
"I love my neighborhood, and I would hate to see the neighborhood dogs or cats or even kids playing outside be bitten by these disease-stricken rodents,” Alston said.
What experts say
X Out Pest Control has been around in Central Texas for 17 years, so the company's employees have seen their fair share of rodents.
Danny Vasquez, a manager for X Out Pest Control, said it's difficult to definitively say the pandemic is the ultimate cause for a potential rise in rodents, but it's a possibility.
"With everybody being home now due to COVID-19 ... everybody wants to feel more comfortable and safe in their homes," Vasquez said.
He added that calls from new customers are up 20% this year and that they're getting all sorts of calls for service.
“Right now when we’re getting calls, we’re getting wildlife, rodent calls or people get raccoons in their attics right now. It’s just so sporadic," Vasquez said. "[A] lot of places are closed down now, so, you know, nobody’s really having any bug issues if you aren’t there."
Nathan Metting, a service technician for X Out Pest Control who specializes in pests, termites and wildlife, also said businesses and schools closing could potentially cause some increase.
"With businesses, schools and anything that is commercial-wise being closed, that doesn't have a lot of trash taken out," Metting said. "Especially restaurants that might've shut down that would've had a big rat population come around, they probably might migrate elsewhere, going to more rural areas or residential communities given that everyone's home taking out more trash."
If you're experiencing a rodent problem, Metting recommends using a bait box.