Rats ravage bayside cars
By Liam Houlihan
June 28, 2004
MELBOURNE'S problem packs of bayside rats have acquired a dangerous new appetite for car cables.
Not content emptying seaside cafes of customers and sending families running from beaches, rats in the City of Kingston are now snacking under car bonnets and turning residents' vehicles into death traps.
Braeside woman Megan Michelis was horrified to discover rats had gnawed large holes in the wires, accelerator cables, and battery casing in her car.
She lives in fear that rat-related damage will lead her to have an accident while driving her daughters around.
"My kids are in the car every day. I'm supposed to check under the bonnet daily to make sure it's safe to drive. But I don't know what I'm looking for," she said.
Her husband's car, a new $60,000 Prado, has also been chewed into disrepair by hungry vermin.
She is angry that Kingston council refuses to play pied piper to her family's rat problem.
"I pay rates and they're not willing to bait. It comes across that the rats have more rights than us," she said.
"I told a lady at the council that there was a plague and she said, 'It's not a plague, there's just a large number of rats'."
The City of Kingston council recognises a rise in suburban rat sightings within its borders, but does not regard Ms Michelis's Waterways home near Braeside as a problem area.
Ms Michelis said the council told her if bait was laid without an environmental report being concluded, innocent possums could die.
But the Waterways resident denies there are any possums near her home.
"There's only tiny trees here because it's a new estate. We've never seen a possum," she said.
"We've had rabbits, foxes and rats, but no possums. And anyway, they're willing to kill people in cars, but not kill a possum?"
Ms Michelis said she and her husband first saw a rat scuttling up a pipe in their housing estate four months ago.
Since then, they have seen rats across the road from their house and regularly hear them running across their roof.
They regard the rat problem in Waterways as caused by the large numbers of rats on the foreshore finding their way into the estates.
But the council is adamant its procedures are necessary and baiting on demand is not the answer.
"When you're baiting things you kill things," council spokesman Mike Petit said.
"Somebody's got to assess what the impact is going to be on the area. You have to balance cables in someone's car with the needs of the environment."
Mr Petit said the result of the council's investigation of Ms Michelis's complaint may be council giving her the number for a pest controller.
The rise in rats in bayside suburbs is believed to result from low rainfall. In wetter years, numbers of sewer rats would drown in seasonal downpours.