Trash cans

The City responds to rats.  It will set out baited boxes, offer homeowners tips to get rid of rat-friendly burrows and check back to see how things are going.

Whether there are more rats, more rat sightings or more rat reportings this year is unclear, said Assistant Health Department Director Carl Caneva, but “there has been an increase in requests to the City for the treatment of rats.”

So far this year the City has received 537 requests for rodent help, an increase of almost 100 over last year’s total of 441 requests. Rats are seen more often in the summer, Mr. Caneva said, because “people are more active and tend to be outside in the summer, so they observe rats more often. “

Contrary to what some may have thought, rats do not seem to be coming out of the trenches dug for sewer- and water-main replacements. Nor is their increase correlated with increased construction around town, Mr. Caneva said.

“While rodents can certainly react to ground disturbances caused by construction, their main concern is locating food, water and shelter. Areas where we have seen increases in rodent reports typically have been in backyards that aren’t well maintained and have overgrowth, or where there is a fairly reliable source of food, such as birdfeeders, dog waste and garbage,” said Mr. Caneva.

The rat problem is not new. Mr. Caneva said the City “has had a continued issue with rodents dating as far back as we have records. There are reports from as far back as the 1940s that reference the Health Department treating for rats.”

The City’s goal is to manage the rat population, but rats are likely here to stay. The Health Department will work with residents and business owners to help address the problem. Killing the rats through the use of baited traps is only one approach, said Mr. Caneva. More effective means of getting rid of rats on one’s property “include things such as cleaning up litter on your property, eliminating all food sources (including fruit and vegetables that have fallen in the back yard), and maintaining structures (sheds, garages, etc.) in good repair. These actions will go much further in managing the problem than traps alone.”

Anyone wishing more information about rats and ways to control them may call 311 or visit the City’s website,

Ways to ⁒at Out†the Furry Creatures

The pamphlet “Preventing Rats” may be downloaded from the City’s website, Below is some information from that pamphlet.  Plantings• Remove any weeds or trash, and aim to keep six inches of bare ground around the foundations of the building.  • Avoid tall grass, bushes and shrubs growing near the building.• Do not plant too densely – make sure you leave a little space between plants. If you do spot burrows, remove any plants that may be around them (such as ivy) and trim underneath shrubs to prevent further burrowing.Garbage• Bring garbage cans and bags to the curb as close to pick-up time as possible. Leaving them out overnight invites rats. • Use City-approved garbage cans with tight-fitting lids, and make sure you have enough cans to hold your trash in between pick-ups. • Landlords can help by insisting that tenants place their garbage inside the cans, and not in bags next to the cans.• If you need to request an extra garbage can or replace a damaged one, contact the Evanston Health Department.Food• When throwing out old food, make sure that it is properly wrapped and not easily accessible. • Remove bird feeders and do not put food out for stray animals. Remove all sources of standing water.Homes, Garages and Buildings• Seal all holes and cracks in foundations, walls, floors, underneath doors and around windows. • Install metal kick plates on the bottom of the door to stop rats gnawing through. Close window gapes with metal flashing, and put screens on vents, especially on lower floors.• An inactive burrow will often have leaves, cobwebs or other debris around the entrance. These should be closed so that rats cannot get back in.  • Remove (and recycle) piles of newspapers, paper bags, cardboard and bottles that may be on your property, and clean out your basement and yard.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...