A recent Chicago Tribune headline took some people by surprise: “City enlists residents in fight against rats.” The city was Evanston, Illinois, and officials from the city’s health and human services department are asking the public to help them in the city’s rat abatement program. Evanston’s director of health and human services, Evonda Thomas-Smith, addressed the city council in May regarding the department’s new strategy. She explained that resident involvement is important for the rat-control program to be successful. Residents are asked to call 311 to report rats and get liability waivers so inspectors can go on their property and arrange for abatement methods. Residents can also help by keeping garbage and food in tightly sealed containers, maintaining grass, shrubs, weeds and other vegetation, and close any openings in garage doors and walls. Additionally, people can be mindful of what inspectors call the “35 cents rule.” The 35 cents rule refers to holes in the ground: a hole the size of a quarter can fit a rat and a hole the size of a dime can fit a mouse.
Inspectors have all also been out walking the city in full force. They’re searching for any rat infestations and colonies as well as identifying areas that may be appealing to rats. Some of those areas are on residential property and often involved a property-code violation of city ordinance. One property owner had a pile of wood along with a tire and other debris stacked against his back porch. The tire was additionally troublesome because according to the inspectors it can collect water, creating a breeding a ground for mosquitoes, which is a concern due to West Nile Virus. Not every property was that severe though. One of the more common things inspectors noticed was overgrown grass and shrubs, which provides cover for rats. According to inspectors, the cover allows rats to run wild.
The city of Evanston understands it will take everyone, residents and all of the departments in the city, working together for the rat abatement program to be successful.
House mice, which are generally active at night, are gray in color and small: usually between two to four inches long. Their nests are typically 12 to 15 inches across and made out of fibrous materials such as paper, and are loosely knit together. Some signs you have house mice include partially nibbled food and small droppings.
Rats are larger in size than house mice (they are 12 to 16 inches from nose to tail) and are a grayish brown color with a long hairless tail. The most common sign you have rats is droppings near food sources along with evidence of gnawing, burrows, tracks, nests and rub marks. It is important to control and eliminate any mice or rats in your home because they contaminate the environments in which they live through their urine, droppings and hairs. They also can carry a wide range of diseases, which can be passed on to humans, either by directly contaminating food with their droppings and urine, or by contaminating surfaces. Rats specifically can pass on the potentially fatal Weils Disease, which is carried by about 15 to 30 per cent of the rat population.
In addition to the potential threat of contamination and the threat of disease, they can also cause extensive structural damage to property. Mice and rats have strong teeth and are capable of gnawing a variety of materials. According to experts, there is a significant risk of fire and electrocution as a result of mice and rodents chewing through electric cables and wiring.
You can discourage mice from taking up residence and prevent infestations by blocking access points to your home and improving hygiene:
- Check that doors fit tightly
- Check that windows close tightly
- Seal all cracks, openings, and holes
- Inspect for access points around gas, electricity, and water pipes
- Store food carefully with tight-fitting lids
- Clean up any spills immediately
- Remove garbage and other materials that can be used by mice
Rats can be both more difficult and more dangerous to deal with. Before you attempt to deal with a rat problem yourself, it is critical to identify where rats are living, feeding, and drinking, and the routes they take between these areas. Look out for:
- Holes and burrows
- Runs and tracks
- Other signs such as sightings or a musky smell
You need to find out how the rats are getting into your home. Try blocking any holes you find with newspaper or similar material or similar material and returning 24 hours to see if it was disturbed. The trained professionals at Attic Solutions can assist you in eliminating any rat or mice problems you may be experiencing.