In springtime, the thoughts of rats everywhere turn toward – making more rats. With that fact of nature in mind, the City presented its rodent abatement update to a rapt City Council on May 26. The news was good and bad, as hotspots from last year’s update appear to have been cleaned up, only to be replaced by rodent sightings elsewhere.

“There’s a certain amount of annual consternation concerning rats in Evanston,” said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz. The City’s health department has a concerted plan, he said, to combat the rats.

Health Director Evonda Thomas-Smith introduced the plan. “Thank you for giving us this great opportunity to provide a rodent-abatement update,” she said. The City believes in “integrated pest management, she said, meaning the City, residents, properly trained staff and trained field staff work together develop a City-wide strategy and respond as circumstances change.

The City conducts a “rodent academy,” she said, to make sure the staff in the field has the same information as the staff at the Civic Center. The result is a coordinated, consistent approach to abating rats throughout Evanston.

“Ten years ago,” said Carl Caneva, assistant director of the Health Department, “the [rat abatement] program was primarily alley treatment.” Since then, he added, the program has grown to address the problem on private property as well. “What we are seeing is the alleys are getting better,” he added. Private property issues, like unkempt birdfeeders and accumulated animal waste, are a main cause of rat breeding.

“What we have is a resource problem,” said Mr. Caneva. “There are too many resources for rats to eat and to provide shelter and breeding grounds for rats.” A problem area has been the RTA and CTA embankments, he said, but the City has worked with these “partners” to bait the train lines.

The Health Department asks permission of property owners before treating private property, Mr. Canveva said. Property owners who refuse permission may be fined if their property violates Evanston property standards. If the fines do not work, the City can bring cases to the Circuit Court in Skokie.

City Resources for Rodent Control

As warmer weather arrives, the City of Evanston Health & Human Services Department (HHSD) encourages community members to work together to help control the rodent population.

Keeping pests away requires eliminating sources of food, water and shelter. To help residents identify conditions that attract rodents, the City offers a number of resources, including a pest control guide for property owners and tenants, a composting guide and a self-inspection checklist for homeowners. Residents can find the guides at

Community members are encouraged to report rodent sightings and pest issues by calling or texting 847-448-4311, by dialing 311 or by using the Evanston 311 mobile application, available from the App Store and Google Play. New this year, residents who submit 311 service requests for pest control will receive a self-inspection checklist to help them eliminate the conditions that encourage rats, making the City’s pest control efforts more successful. The HHSD works closely with Animal Control to respond to service requests.