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Rodent damage in cars is on the rise in Eugene

Geri Baxter
Karen Richards
Sandpiper co-owner Geri Baxter

Rats and mice are doing just fine in the Eugene area. In fact, they’ve got a new favorite hang-out: cars.

Geri Baxter is a co-owner of Sandpiper Import Service in Eugene. She said she’s seen a definite spike in rodent damage. “It used to be when we saw cars with rat problems, inevitably they lived in the country," she told KLCC. "But now they live in South Eugene, they live in River Road, they live everywhere.”

Baxter said rat damage can be extensive and expensive, including chewed computer boards and hoses costing thousands of dollars to repair or replace, and nests behind glove compartments or inside seats. She noted some manufacturers are using soy-based plastics, which mice and rats find tasty. She’s even seen holes chewed in a wiper fluid reservoir.

To avoid problems, Baxter suggested checking under the hood regularly and keeping all food, including wrappers, out of the car. The first sign, she said, is often footprints in the dust of the engine compartment. Besides traps, Baxter said there are electronic repellents as well as mint oil sprays intended to deter the rodents.


How to tackle a growing problem

Merle Jackson with Merle’s Pest Control said rat issues are increasing in Eugene and Springfield. She suggested now is the time for prevention.

"In the winter months they’re actively trying to find a place to nest," she said. "That’s when they have a tendency to come into cars and your house. The main thing to protect your home is exclusion. You need to walk around your house and you need to make sure that there are no entry points to go in your crawl space.”

Jackson said rodents use crawl spaces to gain access to a house. She said they can fit into holes nearly as small as a dime—they just need to get their head in. Jackson warned rats are a neighborhood issue. Because it’s tough to monitor others who scatter bird seed or don’t cover chicken food, she recommends taking steps to protect your own home.

Karen Richards has been a KLCC reporter since the fall of 2012.