The Gripe: Rats in D.C. are a sign of summer

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Aug 8, 2013 in Rat Answers | Subscribe

A resident in the 2500 block of 13th Street NW reported last week that “rats have been seen in my front yard and there’s been rat holes detected in my neighbors’ yards.”

The same day, multiple people reported rat sightings on the same block and in an alley in the 1200 block of Emerson Street NW.

This summer, people also have reported rats in an alley and garage in the 6200 block of 12th Street NW, the 200 block of Bryant Street NE, the 300 block of Upshur Street NW and the 200 block of Ascot Place, among others.

This month, “at least four rats were seen in broad daylight frolicking up and down the street, sidewalk and in neighbors yards” in the 1600 block of Lang Place NE.

Why the apparent uptick in complaints?

According to the District’s Department of Health, which handles rat abatement through its rodent control program, the critters are a sign of the season.

Annual breeding cycles that begin in March result in an abundance of young rats and mice by late spring. These animals then spend the warm-weather months wandering around the city, seeking food and new homes, before going through another breeding cycle in the fall, city officials say. While perhaps disgusting, this summer’s rat sightings are not uncommon or unexpected.

The DOH will bait rodents in outdoor burrows on public property. To file a complaint, residents and business owners can call the city’s central call center at 311 or submit a gripe online at SeeClickFix.com, which funnels submissions to relevant city agencies. If the rats appear on private property, the city advises using traps or poison to eliminate them before they spread.

While abatement is important, the city encourages residents to help prevent rodent problems in the first place. Since the animals are motivated by the search for food and shelter, managing trash and potential hiding places is key.

“You can make rodent control work by reducing the food, water and shelter that rodents need to thrive,” the DOH Web site says.

Several posts on SeeClickFix reflect the correlation between unmanaged trash and an increase in rats.

“There are [four] households sharing one garbage can,” someone wrote this month about an alley in the 3700 block of 13th Street NW. “There is almost always garbage spilling out of the cans attracting rats.”

Likewise, garbage was blamed in a post about a commercial building in the 5400 block of Georgia Avenue NW, near Kennedy Street and Illinois Avenue. The rear of the property “is full of overflowing dumpsters, rotting/putrid odors, rats, broken liquor bottles, human urine and feces,” the poster wrote.

“It is Friday night, midnight, on the residential block of 13th street NE. The smell of rotten garbage hangs heavy over the neighborhood,” someone else wrote in June. “This neighborhood is home to elderly residents, without a/c. Children live here. Monster size flies and rats live here because of the garbage …” the complaint says.

The DOH recommends the following 10 tips for rodent control:

●Store garbage in metal or heavy plastic containers with tight lids.

●Place trash outside shortly before pickup; don’t leave plastic garbage bags out overnight.

●Remove weeds and debris near buildings and in yards; don’t give rats a place to hide.

●Store opened food in metal or glass containers with tight lids.

●Don’t leave extra pet food out; store it in a secure container.

●Sweep up food remains, litter, and trash inside and outside your home.

●Inspect your basement and house for cracks and holes; seal them with mortar.

●Make sure you have screens on windows; inspect windows and screens for holes.

●Keep outside doors closed; use metal trim to prevent rodents from gnawing and entering underneath.

●Don’t provide hiding places for rodents; store materials such as lumber and boxes on a rack with a clean, open area underneath. Get rid of unused materials and junk.

Tell us: Have you noticed an increase in rat sightings this summer? Where and when? Have you taken any steps to fix the problem? Share your experience in the comments below or report the problem.

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