City Commission Nibbles at Ways to Combat Rats
Commissioners report that rat sightings are up.
The Royal Oak City Commission is considering steps to address residents’ complaints about the town’s rodent population.
“Royal Oak has had a rat problem intermittently for as long as I have served at this table,” said Mayor Pro Tem Patricia Capello at Monday night’s City Commission meeting.
Capello along with Commissioner Jim Rasor called for the city to figure about ways to control a rat population that appears to be growing and moving around the city. The problem is so new to the Woodwardside neighborhood near 13 Mile Road and Woodward Avenue that neighbors have started a Facebook page to share information.
“The city is responsible for issues like this,” Rasor said, calling for a discussion of what city and county resources are available to address the problem. The commissioner noted the problem is not unique to Royal Oak, adding a quick Google search will show neighboring communities are also dealing with infestations.
Capello asked Jason Craig, the city’s chief building official, to deliver a map that visually outlines where rat complaints and violations occur in the city.
“There have always been hotspots in the city, typically they are located near restaurants,” she said. “I sense since the restaurants in my (Woodwardside) neighborhood are almost entirely gone that there is something else at work now.”
Craig acknowledged that complaint calls are up but said he has been unable to identify anything specific to cause an explosion in the rat population other than the role weather might have played.
“The warm winter we had did allow the weaker rats to survive where normally they would not,” Craig said. Rats had less trouble finding food and shelter, he said.
Capello noted there are measures the city provided in the past decade to control the rat population, including contracting with Royal Oak’s waste disposal contractor to do a citywide cleanup in which residents got rid of whatever debris they had lying around – from piles of concrete to piles of wood.
“There was all kinds of junk lying around,” Capello said, adding she would like to see the city look at doing another cleanup to pick up old sofas, broken down cars and whatever else people have lying around their yards.
In 2004, the city spent as much as $29,000 on an exterminator to rid the city of rats, said City Manager Don Johnson. He said he would check with the Oakland County Health Department to see if they can offer any help.
While the city looks for a remedy, residents are encouraged to review the Rodent Information Handout (attached to this article as a PDF) for information on how to help prevent infestations.
What can residents do?
Rats need three things to survive – food, water and harborage.
The most important thing people can do is get out and walk around their yard and look for things like wood on the ground, garbage and places where rats can find harborage, said Craig.
“Anything you don’t need, get rid of,” Craig said. And if you have a woodpile, it should be stored at least 18 inches off the ground, he said.
“You even have to look at your neighbor’s yard,” Craig said. “Not everyone knows that they might have a problem.” It needs to be a neighborhood effort, he said.
Residents should also look for burrows. A rat hole is generally about the size of a soup can, Craig said. They are usually found on soft slopes near structures, such as garages and sheds. Rats also look for harborage under decks.
Residents also need is to eliminate food and water sources, said City Manager Don Johnson.
Dog droppings are a major food source for rats so residents must clean up after their pets, the city manager said. Johnson also strongly urged residents not to feed bird or squirrels and to remove water sources, such as birdbaths or even old tires - anything where water may pond. Dog bowls should be brought indoors or monitored, he said.
“Food is the easiest thing to take away, “Johnson said.
Johnson encouraged anyone who notices a rodent problem in his or her neighborhood to contact the city at 248-246-3000.