The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Pest Control Calls Up As Rats Seek Shelter From The Cold

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 3, 2014 5:30PM

Photo credit: Tim Schreier

Chicago doesn’t have some mythic Catholic saint who can simply drive its rat population to an icy mass death in Lake Michigan like St. Patrick (according to legend) drove the snakes from Ireland. We have to rely on exterminators or our own wits.

The Sun-Times has a story about how calls to exterminators and the city’s 311 call center are up as rats and mice seek shelter from the harsh winter. Turns out the critters can’t handle a polar vortex any better or worse than we. So it’s quite possible that scurrying noise I hear behind the walls of my home office isn’t loose tuckpointing or snow falling between buildings. Great! That’s one more thing to add to my litany of worries.

Or not, if a look at this handy map is an indication. The largest spike in complaints came from north side neighborhoods with higher concentrations of trendy restaurants and thus, appetizing garbage. One exterminator told the Sun-Times he’s had a 50 percent increase in calls so far this year over the same time frame in 2013.

Unable to burrow into Chicago’s frozen tundra, rats are adapting like our future Skynet overlords and finding soft spots in homes, garages and even airport hangars. Another exterminator said he moved 10 rats from hangars at O’Hare International Airport in the past three weeks, an “uncommon” number.

If you do decide to earn your Chicago rat catching stripes, don’t abuse them, although it’s admittedly hard to resist for some. One Chicago man was charged with animal cruelty after he allegedly posted videos to YouTube showing him cutting off the tail and ears of a rat he captured, and using a Taser on another mouse he captured until it was dead.

Michael Semens, 24, was contrite about his actions when he was arrested, according to police. Semens was released on a $10,000 bond and confined to electronic monitoring by Judge Donald Panarese Jr. Semens, who lives in Pilsen, told Panarese, "I literally work in garbage. If I see a rat, I catch it."