Posted tagged ‘Ward 1 rat summit’

Overview of the Ward 1 Rat Summit

November 12, 2013
Dr. Robert Corrigan speaking during the Ward 1 rat summit.

Dr. Robert Corrigan speaking during the Ward 1 rat summit.

On Saturday, November 9th, the District Department of Health, along with Councilmember Jim Graham, Department of Public Works Director William Howland, and Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Director Nicholas Majett, hosted a rat summit at the Columbia Heights Recreation Center at 1480 Girard Street, NW. The summit began at 10 a.m. and wrapped up shortly after noon. It was an excellent opportunity for residents to learn more about reducing rat populations, current trends, and ask District officials about specific problem areas.

The featured speaker was Dr. Robert Corrigan, a noted authority on rodent control, especially knowledgeable on rats. His presentation was both informative and interesting. Corrigan was especially helpful as he presented factual information based on years of research and scientific data.

One item that I found to be of particular interest for residents in the Park View area was the relationship between feral cats and rat populations. It was clearly presented that the belief that having cats in the community will help control rodents is a myth! It is a scientific fact – proven at least 20 years ago – that feral cat colonies do not reduce rat populations. Few cats will challenge a rat. Although some cats hunt for mice, many cats tolerate rats or mice, especially when they are well-fed. It could be said that more rats and mice have been fed by cat food than killed by a cat. Director Howland was particularly emphatic that it is illegal to leave cat food out in an uncontrolled manner – including in public alleys.

Among other details learned at the summit were:

  • We have had a decade of mild winters, and this has resulted in larger rat populations. Sever winters stress rat populations and reduce populations with younger or weaker rats perishing;
  • A rat’s home range is from 90 to 450 feet in Washington. The range depends on the availability of food. This range is not only horizontally, but also up and down;
  • Rats will eat dog feces – in fact, they like it. It is imperative for pet owners to clean up after their pets;
  • Rats are known to carry 55 different diseases that they can transmit to humans;
  • While poison is effective, it should be considered the last option to get rid of rats. Baiting for rats is no substitute for good sanitation;
  • A rat will typically live 6 months to a year;
  • When landscaping a property, it is best to plant shrubs that are vase shaped with few low branches or growth. Rats have long hairs above their eyes, and when they come in contact with foliage, a rat will instinctively begin to dig creating a burrow;
  • Rat’s incisors (the front teeth) are hard — harder than iron, platinum and copper. Measured on the Mohs hardness scale, the rat’s lower incisors rank 5.5 (diamond is a 10). Human enemel is not quite this hard, measuring 5 on the Mohs hardness scale. This is why a rat can, and will, gnaw through trash cans and water pipes to get to food when they smell is.

Leading up to Dr. Corrigan’s presentation, Director Howland informed the assembly that by June of 2014 all of our trash and recycling cans will be replaced on a city-wide basis. Currently, the city will repair broken trash can lids and wheels for free (call 311), but damaged trash can bodies are only replaced with payment of a $45 replacement fee. It is good news that all containers will be replaced within the year.

Councilmember Graham specifically asked about construction and how it related to disturbing rat populations. Director Majett, during his presentation, shared that only raze permits alert the Department of Health to inspect a property, and bait it, prior to building activity. Thus, other construction activities will disturb rat populations and cause them to seek other locations. However, Corrigan noted that this disturbance of rat population only occurs with properties that already have an infestation problem. Thus, returning the discussion to the absolute necessity of having good sanitation.

Lastly, clean alleys and neighborhoods that practice good sanitation will stress a rat population by reducing the amount of food available. When rats are stressed, they live shorter lives and have been known to attack each other. By residents, businesses, and the city all doing their part, they can go a long way in decreasing the number of rats in the District.

Answering community questions during Director Howland's presentation.

Answering community questions during Director Howland’s presentation.

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