Rats! Somerville looks to curb rodent problem

City officials say unsecured trash receptacles are one of the main causes of rat infestation.

The population of Somerville seems to be growing and we’re not talking about people.

City officials said they’ve received an increased number of reported rat sightings this year and residents said they have noticed more of the vulgar vermin scurrying around and through their yards.

“They come out from the sewers and they’re so big it’s incredible,” said James Balan, a lifelong Somerville resident. “I have a 3-year-old son and I tell him if he sees a rat to run the other way. I shouldn’t have to do that.”

Rat inspection requests in the city are up 52 percent for the first six months of this year compared with the same time period last year, according to data provided by the city.

City officials have created maps using the data to report rat sightings to pinpoint problem neighborhoods.

While officials attributed the rat rise in part to the dense city’s available food sources and to the mild winter, which spared the rats a chilling death, residents had their own theories.

Buddy Keenan, who lives on Gilman Street in one of the neighborhoods with multiple reported rat sightings, said he believes the rats have come to his area from nearby construction sites and run along the railroad tracks that are behind his home.

Rats have previously been a problem in Somerville, like they have in other heavily populated cities.
Years ago the city formed a Rodent Task Force to address issues then.

Ellen Collins, the operations manager for Somerville’s Inspectional Services Department, said the city is currently reviewing its procedures for dealing with rat issues and incorporating more of the task force’s recommendations.

In the meantime, Collins said workers are stepping up their efforts like baiting sewer basins and passing out informational door hangers in problem neighborhoods.

She said the biggest issue inspectors and workers are looking for is uncovered trash.
“They are very smart creatures and they’re just going to find food,” said Collins. “You want to eliminate food and shelter.”

Balan, who also lives on Gilman Street, said he would like to see the city give out trash bins for homes. He said he sees too many of his neighbors dumping trash in bags out windows or in uncovered barrels.

“It has to be solved because it’s ridiculous,” he said.

Officials map rat regions

Officials have mapped problem neighborhoods where the most rat sightings have occurred during the first six months of the year.

Areas in East Somerville have seen a high number of rat calls per square foot, according to city data.
The area south of Union Square that borders Cambridge is also another problem area.

Preventing rats

The city suggests tips for residents to help control the rat problem:
   
Eliminate food sources by using tight-fitting lids on all trash containers
   
Keep food, like fallen bird food or fruits from trees, off of the ground
   
Maintain property to eliminate rodent shelter
   
Remove trash and debris and keep vegetation trimmed
   
When calling 311 to report a rat sighting, make sure to know where the rat is coming from or if it’s feeding on a nearby food source


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