Here is the good news about rats in in Evanston.

Requests for services because of rats (“rodent treatment”) have steadily decreased over the past four years, according to a recent memo from Ike Ogbo, Interim Director of the City’s Health and Human Services Department. Calls for rodent treatments decreased by more than 50% between 2015 and 2018, and so far this year, the downward trend has continued.

In 2015, there were 1,280 requests for rodent treatments; 1,108 in 2016; 747 in 2017 and 626 in 2018. As of April of this year, there were 126 requests.

This is not just welcome news for the nerves (who really likes to encounter a rat in the alley or yard?) but also for the health of the community.

Rat walks and rat ice, social media posts and mass mailing are among the City-wide strategies. Proper garbage management, hewing to City property standards and, yes, cutting off the rats’ food source can help continue this downward trend..

Rat Walks and Newsletters

Rodent walks, conducted each spring, Mr. Igbo says, have proven effective in identifying rodent “hot spots.” City inspectors have the opportunity to educate residents along the way about proper rodent control. When and where necessary, they also target these areas for treatment and for enforcement of City codes.

Newsletters, social media posts and the annual Citywide rodent control seminar continue to be “hallmarks of the Rodent Control Program.”

RENT Evanston

RENT Evanston – Rental, Empowerment, Networking and Training – aims to bring property owners and residents together by training participants on property upkeep, maintenance and engagement and helps them become familiar with Evanston property maintenance and building codes.

Mr. Igbo’s memo said Health Department staff have found RENT Evanston an effective way to disseminate information and educate property owners and residents on matters such as rodent control.

Rat Ice and Mass Mailings

Two new strategies this year are “rat ice” for extermination and mass mailings for education.

Rat ice (dry ice/carbon dioxide pellets) debuted at Fountain Square last fall and met with some degree of success. The dry ice pellets were put into rat burrows, displacing the oxygen and killing the rats.

The Health Department staff also began using the City’s mass emailing system, GovDelivery, to send quarterly newsletters to property owners and residents about timely property-related topics including rodent control.

Garbage Management

A couple of common-sense measures can help control the rodent population. Manage the garbage and mow the grass.

Boxes, scrap metals, discarded and abandoned furniture/appliances will provide premium housing for rodents. Overflowing garbage carts offer feasts, as do carts with holes chewed in them. If something has chewed holes in the top of a garbage cart, it was probably a squirrel. Holes chewed at the bottom, though, are likely to be the work of rats.

Overgrown shrubs and grasses can give rats the opportunity to hide as they forage for food. Denying rats food and shelter may eventually drive them away.

The City needs residents’ continued cooperation to keep rats at bay. Managing garbage and weeds and eliminating food sources for rats seem like reasonable measures, and all they cost is a little effort.