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City Officials Nibble at Ways to Combat Rats

Find out what local officials recommend to help combat the problem.

City Manager Don Johnson noted that two rats can turn into a million rats in 18 months in ideal conditions. Credit: Patch File Photo
City Manager Don Johnson noted that two rats can turn into a million rats in 18 months in ideal conditions. Credit: Patch File Photo

It's a problem Royal Oak and other local communities have been dealing with for years: Rats.

"I get people that call me that complain about rats. They think the rats are going downtown and eating dinner and coming back," said City Manager Don Johnson. "That's not happening."

Rats don't travel great distances for food and, as Mayor Jim Ellison pointed out, they can't afford the parking.

Joking aside, when asked to rate satisfaction with city services, pest control ranked at the bottom in a recent city-wide survey. And in a 2012 survey, rats were cited as one of the city's most serious problems.

Johnson noted that two rats can turn into a million rats in 18 months in ideal conditions.

At the strategic planning session held Saturday, Johnson presented a list of the "big things" the city can do, including:

  • require rodent-proof containers – no setting plastic bags or cans without lids at the curb
  • move to automated trash collection where residents use large 96-gallon wheeled containers
  • use geographic information systems to track rodent activity
  • offer a city-wide neighborhood amnesty clean-up day and allow residents to dispose of constructions materials that are not picked up during normal trash collection but often provide harborage for rats 
  • deal with the problem through tougher code enforcement
  • provide more education via the city's website or send information included with quarterly water bills


On a positive note, Department of Public Service Director Greg Rassel said Royal Oak's refuse collector, Rizzo Services, reported the quantity and size of rats were both down last summer.

"When they pick up trash they don't see rats running out of garbage cans," Rassel said. "A year ago there was a problem."

Johnson believes the main reason the rodent population is down is weather related. Royal Oak had a severe winter one year ago, he said.

"If we get another couple of mild winters, I think we'll be right back where we were," he said. "Let's hope the 10 degree below zero weather we've had proves to be somewhat valuable."

Which of the city manager's ideas do you think would work the best? Tell us in the comments.

Sherry Lane January 20, 2014 at 06:52 PM
the rat's are so big in my neighborhood.. that the rat traps are not even hurting them.. I keep up my property and still have them and I'm getting tired of city officials and workers minimizing the problem, & they have been for quite some time..
Shelly Renee January 20, 2014 at 10:17 PM
we need to go back to the metal garbage cans because they chew right through the plastic ones
Judy Gates January 21, 2014 at 06:53 AM
"offer a city-wide neighborhood amnesty clean-up day and allow residents to dispose of constructions materials that are not picked up during normal trash collection but often provide harborage for rats" This was done a few years back and was very helpful to clean up the yard! Most residents will use their yard to "store" items that cannot go in for regular trash pickup! This amnesty should be implemented at least once a year!
Pbrzez January 21, 2014 at 10:17 AM
What can we do when a neighbor is a hoarder? 5 cars, 4 of which are used as garbage cans. The hoarder keeps them tagged so not to have them towed. There is so much stuff on the side of his house and in the yard, I think I live next to a junk yard. Do you really think an amnesty clean up day would help? How do we get the city to help us? All that was suggested was get a rat bait trap. Then I have to worry about dead rats in my yard. Unfeasible with grand children and a small dog. This is making my home unsellable. Rats, rats everywhere! HELP!!!!!!
Barb Narb January 21, 2014 at 10:58 AM
"the rat's are so big in my neighborhood.. that the rat traps are not even hurting them." Um, those aint rats: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=R.O.U.S.
Pam Shewchuck January 21, 2014 at 11:52 AM
We too have a rat issue. They raided my garden this past summer; I have been diligent about picking up dog feces, and removing my compost bin, etc. But as stated above: how can you eradicate when your neighbors have an above ground swimming pool full of holes which makes a great home for an abundance of rats? How can you secure your own yard when everyone else lives in chaos and clutter? I came home the other night and there was a big old rat in my driveway -- which then then scurried over to my neighbors yard and under their pool (which has not been used in years). I think heavy code enforcement would help: and they have been out to look at this swimming pool. But, its still up and housing rats. I'd love an answer.
Laura Harrison January 21, 2014 at 12:20 PM
suggestions: 1. flood code enforcement with complaints. 2. send email messages to the mayor, the commissioners, the city manager. 3. go with a couple of your neighbors to a city commission meeting and speak up at public comment. Or submit a petition signed by your neighbors requesting that the city take action. The squeaky wheel gets the oil.
Pbrzez January 21, 2014 at 03:27 PM
Laura, Thanks for the suggestions. Pam, I feel for you.
Sherry Lane January 21, 2014 at 06:00 PM
R.O.U.S. Rodents of Unusual Size, from the 1987 movie, The Princess Bride. They are known to attack in the Fire Swamp.
Mike January 21, 2014 at 07:33 PM
I have never seen a rat near my property. Thank you crazy cat lady.
Judy Davids (Editor) January 21, 2014 at 07:47 PM
LOL, Mike.
Bob January 22, 2014 at 08:58 AM
There's not much you can do when your neighbors have critter condos on their property and you don't have the heart to drop a dime.
Judy Gates January 22, 2014 at 10:23 AM
fought to control the rats when the neighbor NEVER picks up after their dogs!!!! can't wait till the spring thaw!!So tired of looking at this every time I walk out my side door!….other than this fault they are decent neighbors :-(
The Duke of Royal Oak January 22, 2014 at 03:37 PM
CALL CODE ENFORCEMENT FOLKS.
Rat Haven January 23, 2014 at 02:19 PM
I asked my neighbor to pick up 5 piles of dog feces near our fence where my table and chairs are. Told him it was 101 degrees out and it stunk for 10 days. Asked him if he could train his dog to go elsewhere. He laughed and said talk to the dog. He and wife left on vacation for 4 days. The paper for 3 weeks straight talked about the rat problem. It said call code enforcement and later it said talk to neighbor first. I than called code enforcement. Neighbor cleaned up feces 4 days later on Monday morning right before the inspector came out. Feces had been there 14 days now. But the inspector saw only a pile of bricks and sent them a letter on that. Neighbor won't talk to me anymore. I tried to do it the right way but that's the way some people are. Can't work together. I know he had a rat problem in his shed. The piles of feces still sit there at the fence between us. The paper said rats like feces and bricks to live in so they got it made here. If people can't or won't work together the problem won't be fixed.
CDE January 23, 2014 at 09:51 PM
Metal garbage cans with lids and even heavy duty plastic garbage cans with lids...they will stay out of your property and out of your garage/buildings/etc...I had them, secured my garbage better and have not seen one or noticed any rat trafficking since mid-July; they may still use your property as a thoroughfare, but unfortunately for those that have complacent neighbors I feel for you...this horrific phenomenon is not just happening in Royal Oak--also happening in Ferndale, Berkley, Madison Heights, Clawson, Birmingham, etc. I hate to chalk it up to an unfortunate reality of living in an urban setting and with careless neighbors, but seems to be the case.

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