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Are There More Rats In Chicago This Summer?

By Stephen Gossett in News on Aug 18, 2017 4:59PM

If you feel like you're seeing more rats compared to the usual summer—or at least speaking up about them more—you might be on to something. Rodent complaints for the early part of the summer have increased about 9 percent from the same time last year.

Between June 1 through Aug. 10 the Department of Streets and Sanitation has logged 11,286 residential rodent reports. Last year during that same timeframe, the figure was complaints. The city saw a 30 percent increase in complaints from November, 2016 to February to 2017 compared to the same timeframe a year ago, ABC7 reported in May.

Still, rat complaints for the entire year were actually slightly down compared to 2016 when we checked in in late July.

DSS has stepped up its efforts to get Chicagoans to report rat sightings in the recent past, which may help explain why the number of complaints has ticked up a bit. We could of course also still be seeing the lingering effects of the mild winter.

DSS responds to more than 1 million calls for service each year—a figure that includes rat complaints—and the department responds to all rodent requests within five or fewer days.

"As DSS is primarily complaint-driven, we rely on 311 rodent reports to effectively target and treat rodent issues. Over the past year, we have increased education efforts focused on preventing access to food for rats, which is the main contributor of rodent activity," a DSS spokesperson told Chicagoist via email.

"Crews regularly post "Don't Feed the Rats" posters in alleys and share rodent brochures, reminding residents of habits such as picking up after their pets and closing their garbage and recycling cart lids tightly," the spokesperson said.

The city announced last month that it would bring back its dry-ice technique of handling rats. Launched as a pilot project, it was suspended last year because the rodenticide was not then federally approved—but it has since been cleared by the Environmental Protection Agency, and the technique will be relaunched.

Chicago is also piloting a bait system that renders rats infertile. Called Contrapest, the method is in place now at the garbage transfer station at 34th & Lawndale. Rats feed for months from 25 bait boxes at the facility, a process which leaves them unable to reproduce.

I tell you, Chicago, we'll lick this rattiest-city rep yet.