Seeing rat traps sitting untouched both upstairs and in the basement, pest exterminator Robin Morrison delivered welcome news to a Eugene homeowner Wednesday.
The home near Hendricks Park was once again free of the dirty, destructive rodents.
The homeowner, who asked that his name not be used, was relieved.
The initial evidence that his home was infested with rats a first in his 38-year ownership of the property was several months ago, when he noticed bite marks on fruit he kept on a counter.
My wife thought the grandkids were doing it, he said.
Then the rats chewed up the wiring in his dishwasher.
A call to Bug Zapper Pest Control, a five-year-old business based in Roseburg with a branch in Eugene, brought Morrison to the scene.
Local pest exterminators like Morrison are in high demand these days as pest control businesses, neighborhood groups and city officials all acknowledge a marked increase in the citys rat population, and a surge in complaints from residents.
They attribute the increase to the rise in backyard gardens, open compost piles and chicken coops that provide rodents a steady supply of food that allows them to thrive and procreate.
City officials have said theyll launch a public education campaign with Lane County Public Health and take other steps to help bring the population under control.
In the meantime, pest exterminators such as Morrison are the tip of the spear for homeowners who dont want to get their hands dirty and arent wise to the sneaky ways of rats.
The onset of winter has long been prime indoor rat season, as rodents scurry to get out from the cold. So Morrison, 40, spends his work days visiting homes and setting and checking dozens of peanut-butter-laced traps cheese isnt as effective, he says and bait boxes of rat poison. He also seals in crawl spaces and other holes and gaps around the exterior of homes.
Summertime is wasp season for Morrison. He also exterminates ants, bedbugs, fleas, gophers and moles.
As Morrison visited his customers last week, they displayed a mix of emotions, from mellow to manic, about the rat infestations they have endured.
Earlier in the day, Morrison checked in on one distraught customer. The homeowner, who asked that her name not be used, saw a mouse earlier this year. She hired Bug Zapper to trap mice and seal her home. The firm caught more than a dozen mice at the house, but recent weekly checks had turned up nothing. During the latest visit, however, the homeowner showed Morrison two mouse droppings shed found and put in a bag. Mouse droppings, much smaller than rat droppings, are relatively easy to identify.
Morrison confirmed that the droppings were fresh. A mouse may be in the house. He was perplexed but got to work setting up a box baited with poison in a bedroom closet where she had found the droppings.
The homeowner said she couldnt sleep in that room and was growing increasingly desperate about the situation.
I can not live like this, she said at one point.
Morrison tried to reassure her. Well definitely get to the bottom of this, he said.
Its like an invasion and its an uncontrollable wild card, he said a short time later while driving to his next appointment. Most people see their home as their sanctuary. Thats where you are you. ... When something enters that home and then starts threatening to make it feel like its also their home and its unwanted, it can feel really, really violating.
With most customers, Morrison said, he attempts to strikes a balance by acknowledging their concern while reassuring them that their situation isnt bad as it seems. But for some customers, the only approach is to work to kill the offending rodents as fast as possible.
A pest exterminator for almost two years, Morrison said the biggest misconception of his trade is that he and his peers dont know what theyre doing.
Pest exterminators must secure state licenses to apply pesticides. Morrison has been told Oregons tests are more difficult than in some other states. Exterminators complete apprenticeships and pursue continuing education to keep their licenses current. They often do research to study the behavior of pests and their weak points.
But the second-guessing by customers comes in ways both explicit and implicit. Customers may tell Morrison to set up the traps at certain locations. Or he may find traps hes set have been moved by the homeowner to other spots.
Youre not going to get any rats in your fridge, I guarantee it, he quipped.
Wait, someone moved into a refrigerator a rat trap Morrison had set out in the house?
Yes, Morrison said, with the customer telling him, Well, if I open the fridge, one might run in, and hes a goner.
Morrison, a married father of two, became a pest exterminator a year after getting his bachelors degree in English from the University of Iowa in 2015.
Morrison spent his formative years in Coos County and held a variety of jobs including managing a restaurant and working at an adult care center before moving his family to the Midwest to pursue his degree.
His ultimate goal was to teach English and literature at a university. His passion is writing, and a target for Morrison earlier in life was to write at least a story chapter or two poems every day.
But after graduating at age 38, he decided that pursuing an academic career was too much of a gamble for his family. In pursuit or a trade, he moved to Eugene, where he had lived briefly during his freshman year of high school.
He read about pest control and was fascinated, realizing entomology might be a calling.
He secured all the necessary licenses and was hired by Bug Zapper Pest Control a short time later as one of its first employees. The firm now has seven pest exterminators.
The job, which includes managing the Eugene branch and training all new pest exterminators, allows him to keep writing, as he writes the companys blogs and social media posts.
Morrison said the uptick in rat calls has prompted the company to retool its practices. Rats are one of the companys least profitable pests, because it is so time consuming to try to kill them. The company charges a flat $399 for rat trapping, which includes weekly checks until signs of the rats are gone.
He said pest exterminators are setting more traps and at more locations in a house initially, and sometimes checking before the week is out, or at a customers request. The aim is to exterminate the rats as quickly as possible to keep the problem from spreading in a neighborhood and save on the expense of future visits.
Morrison declined to divulge his salary, but he said he and his wife, a server at the Olive Garden restaurant in Eugene, get by.
He works overtime weekly, is eligible for commissions and is sometimes rewarded for the pain he may suffer removing wasp nests.
When they (customers) see you jumping around because you got stung, they give you a tip, he said. I try not to abuse that. Its a nice thing that they do.
He said his 4-year-old daughter has taken an interest in insects, and his 12-year-old son has expressed interest in following in his fathers footsteps.
Morrison said he has told his son to think carefully.
You have to want to go into a crawl space and get dead rats out in order to do this job, he said. If you dont want to do that, youre not going to last more than a year or so. Its pretty unnerving, or can be.
He recalls the time he retrieved the bodies and skeletons of dozens of dead rats. The rats had turned to cannibalism after the sealing of the house cut off their food supply, he said.
Theres the overpowering odor of decaying rodents and the strong ammonia smell from rat urine that he copes with daily.
Morrison chews gum constantly during his shift. He read that it helps surgeons tone down their gag reflex when encountering revolting smells. Hes found that it helps.
Then theres interacting with some customers. Hes happened upon domestic disputes during service calls.
One time, a giant of a man answered the door, shirtless, his torso beet-red.
He ranted about a monster bug atop his vehicles gas cap, but Morrison didnt see anything.
The man went inside, and Morrison heard shouting moments later. He looked in a window and observed the man shouting at a wall.
Morrison left immediately and put a note in the system for the firm not to respond to future service calls to the address.
I still get scared when I think of that guy, he said.
Despite the challenges, Morrison said he plans to make pest control his career, as he can return to writing when he retires.
Unlike in previous jobs, having that many hats I wear in the company just makes me feel valuable, he said.
Does it bother him that he makes a living killing things albeit creatures that most people are desperate to see gone?
Morrison said he has mostly become desensitized to it, similar to his previous work assisting residents at a senior care center who were too frail to clean themselves after using the bathroom.
I dont think theres part of me that finds any glee in catching rats, other than just the standard OK, good, were making progress on this job, he said. Every now and then, youll catch something and youre like, ah, I cant believe I do this for a living. I wrote poetry until a few years ago. Whats going on? How did this come about?
He acknowledged that he does gets pangs of guilt sometimes killing moles and rats, as they are intelligent. In addition, he has friends who keep rats as pets.
I go over to their house and Im looking at the rat, and Im thinking this is awkward because I kill these for a living, like this is what I do, he said. Theyre like, Do you want to hold my pet? Im like, No, sorry. My brain is geared toward a series of actions you dont want me performing on your rats.
Follow Christian Hill on Twitter @RGchill . Email firstname.lastname@example.org .
More Local News articles
Read more here:
Exterminator does the dirty work for rodent-besieged ...
- Rats Adapt To A World In Pandemic Mode - Here And Now - May 19th, 2020
- Edinburgh's rat population is 'out of control' with rodents gathering in gardens - Edinburgh Live - April 21st, 2020
- Coronavirus lockdowns are forcing rats to resort to cannibalism and infanticide due to lack of food sources - MEAWW - April 14th, 2020
- Rats on the rise as shutdown cuts their food supply - Tweed Daily News - April 6th, 2020
- Guide to Cockroaches, Bed Bugs and Rodents in Paterson NJ - Patch.com - February 26th, 2020
- Rodent Exterminator - 54 Photos & 14 Reviews - Pest ... - February 21st, 2020
- Owners of rat-infested home on near west side fined - The State Journal-Register - February 6th, 2020
- Fort Pierce wants to keep temporary animal shelter open through June - TCPalm - January 22nd, 2020
- Rodents in the attic: Beware of winter fire dangers - The Mountaineer - December 6th, 2019
- New theories emerge to explain dead rats washed up in Westport - RNZ - November 20th, 2019
- How to Get Rid of Mice, Rats, & Other Rodents in Your Shed - October 20th, 2019
- Patton Termite & Pest Control - Exterminator Services ... - October 4th, 2019
- Rodent identification guide | Western Exterminator - September 10th, 2019
- Exterminator Rodents - September 10th, 2019
- How do exterminators get rid of mice? - My Homey Home - September 8th, 2019
- Rodent Exterminator | Rodent Removal | Rodent Exterminators - May 29th, 2019
- Rodent Exterminators | Rodent Control & Removal | Allgood ... - May 24th, 2019
- Rodents | Boca Raton Termite Extermination, Pest Control ... - May 24th, 2019
- Pest Control Sacramento | Top Exterminators | Golden Hills ... - May 12th, 2019
- Mouse Exterminator Cost - Fixr.com - March 29th, 2019
- Rodent Control in Milwaukee County, WI | Rodent Exterminator - March 16th, 2019
- Beeline Pest Control - March 12th, 2019
- Exterminators Get Rid of Rodents Attic Crawlspace Rats ... - March 7th, 2019
- Pest Control Albuquerque | Exterminator Albuquerque NM - February 9th, 2019
- Seattle Commercial Rodent Control Exterminators for Rats ... - September 29th, 2018
- What Odors Do Rodents Like? | Pest Control and Bug ... - September 29th, 2018
- Anaheim Mice Control - Anaheim Pest Control Pros - September 29th, 2018
- Peoria Mice Control - Peoria Pest Control Pros - September 29th, 2018
- Norman Mice Control - Norman Pest Control Pros - September 29th, 2018
- Rodents - Southold Pest Control and Exterminator - July 28th, 2018
- Rodents - Manhasset Pest Control and Exterminator - June 7th, 2018
- Rodents In Memphis Tn | Rodents Exterminator - May 28th, 2018
- New Jersey Mice & Rodent Control | Exterminator For ... - April 23rd, 2018
- Mice, Rodent, and Rat Exterminator in Buffalo, NY - March 26th, 2018
- DIY Rodent Control & Traps | Rodent Extermination Products ... - March 9th, 2018
- Rodent Control Exterminator - Hitmen Termite & Pest Control - January 25th, 2018
- DIY Rodent Control, Traps, and Rodent Extermination ... - November 18th, 2017
- #1 Pest Control in Chicago, Illinois! Top Exterminator for ... - October 28th, 2017
- Local rat population surging - The Daily Post - September 5th, 2017
- Pest Control Exterminator in Buffalo, NY - ProStar Pest ... - August 29th, 2017
- Couple's horror as plague of rats infests their car and EATS the engine while their other motor is littered with ... - The Sun - August 26th, 2017
- Flea Control, Treatment, and Prevention - Victoria Advocate - August 7th, 2017
- The number of rat infestations in Leicester is going up - Leicester Mercury - August 4th, 2017
- Employees say Jacksonville International Airport has major rat infestation - ActionNewsJax.com - August 4th, 2017
- Creepy creature a mix between spider, scorpion; native to Arizona - ABC2 News - August 2nd, 2017
- Calling the Pied Piper: Rats invade Petaluma - Petaluma Argus Courier - July 31st, 2017
- Feral cats in demand | Calaveras County's Most Trusted News ... - Calaveras Enterprise - July 31st, 2017
- New York unveils $32-million fight vs rats - Inquirer.net - July 13th, 2017
- Mice seen as invading City Hall - Philly.com - Philly.com - July 13th, 2017
- Hartford residents speak out on unsafe, unhealthy living conditions ... - FOX 61 - July 12th, 2017
- North End Residents Organize Against Alleged Neglect By Landlord - Hartford Courant - July 11th, 2017
- Get Rid of Rodents | pest-control.com | pest-control.com - July 10th, 2017
- Dirty Dining: Alessi Bakery's rodent infestation evident by rodent ... - ABC Action News - July 8th, 2017
- From toilet bowls to car engines, rat sightings are up at Danforth and Woodbine - CBC.ca - July 3rd, 2017
- 'They were nesting in my underpants' - John Woodhouse on the city's rodent issues - Stoke Sentinel - July 2nd, 2017
- Dirty Dining: Bombay Grill Indian Cuisine shut down for 700+ rodent droppings in kitchen - ABC Action News - June 24th, 2017
- How a Joke About Flying Squirrels Led to an Ailing Woman's Cure - New York Times - June 22nd, 2017
- DNA from Egyptian mummies and Viking graves reveals how cats conquered the world - Popular Science - June 19th, 2017
- Philly nursing home has abysmal rating and rodents, too - Philly.com - June 12th, 2017
- Rat Mob! Rodents Swarm in Myanmar Villages - Live Science - June 8th, 2017
- Villagers fight back as rat hordes swarm Irrawaddy Delta's Ngapudaw - DVB (registration) - June 6th, 2017
- Minnesota sewer rats create nightmare for homeowner - THV 11 - June 6th, 2017
- My College Roommates Were Rats - The New Yorker - June 6th, 2017
- Thursday's best TV: Paula; The Truth About HIV; Jago: A Life ... - The Guardian - May 25th, 2017
- The Arizona Department of Economic Security Is Infested With Rats (Literally) - Phoenix New Times - May 20th, 2017
- MPI's Changes To Rodent Claim Policy Could Mean Lost Local Jobs ... - PembinaValleyOnline.com - May 1st, 2017
- Rodent Control and Removal Methods | Terminix - April 29th, 2017
- Long-time Atlanta restaurant fails second health inspection in seven months - WSB Atlanta - April 19th, 2017
- Burrowing rodents threaten Central Oregon canals - The Register-Guard - April 13th, 2017
- Former employee posts video of rats in Denison Little Caesar's - KXII-TV - April 13th, 2017
- San Francisco Cockroach Exterminator Bed Bug Rodent & Ant Pest Control Announced - MilTech - April 12th, 2017
- Digging rodents threaten canal safety in Central Oregon; Ground ... - Bend Bulletin - April 12th, 2017
- Rats! Infestation forces firefighters from Riverside South station ... - Ottawa Sun - April 3rd, 2017
- Exterminators tackle Riverside South fire station rats - Ottawa Citizen - April 3rd, 2017
- Massive amounts of trash are attracting rats and ruining this neighborhood - New York Post - April 3rd, 2017
- 'Swainsboro Apartments' Facing Major Rodent Problems That Are Going Unnoticed by Management - WJBF-TV - March 30th, 2017
- Gnawing costs force Manitoba Public Insurance to change rodent claim policy - Yahoo News - March 24th, 2017
- Gnawing costs force Manitoba Public Insurance to change rodent claim policy - Brandon Sun - March 23rd, 2017
- Rat Hunters in Paris Go on Strike to Demand Pay Raise - Heat Street - March 16th, 2017
- What killed owl at Forest Lawn? Maybe not what you think. - Buffalo News - March 5th, 2017