Dr. Robert Corrigan, who was once a professional exterminator, and later earned a Ph.D. at Purdue University, is one of nation's formost authorities on how to control rat populations in urban areas. Corrigan has studied outside-dwelling rats for 35 years.
At a so-called "rat summit" in DC's Ward 4, he had bad news and good news about the rodents. The bad news: there are no simple solutions to total rat control. "[We] can't just say, 'OK, send out the bait,' and put out bait. Because that, too, can hurt the environment," Dr. Corrigan explained. "If we're not careful, dogs will get into the bait, we'll kill dogs. If we're not careful, we can harm even -- there have been cases where someone doesn't know what they're doing with rat poison, they shove it down the burrow, the rat shoves it back out, a child thinks it's a packet of candy [and injests the poison.]"
More bad news from Dr. Corrigan: every major city in the world has rats, they thrive in sewer systems, and rats probably will never be fully eliminated.
The good news: multiple studies have shown: if food sources (like open trash containers) get closed and sealed, rat populations do decline sharply.
At the summit, city officials begged residents to make sure garbage is sealed away from the urban rodents. But the officials got some blunt feedback from the Ward 4 residents. One resident complained that city street- sweeping vehicles rarely clean alleys, even when residents call and ask for it.
Another Ward 4 resident said, even when trash cans are sealed, garbage often gets strewn by the trash collection crews. "As the crews empty... the trash can into the truck... trash and litter and bottles and so forth will fall from the cans onto the ground," said Jocelynn Johnson. "And [the trash crews are] going on to the next house, and the next cans, and they don't pick up after themselves."
D.C. officials told the crowd: call and complain when that happens, and they will try to send inspectors.
Another bit of good news: city officials said, using sharply higher tax rates on abandoned and blighted properties, they have cut the number of them to 2.100 units. Philadelphia, by comparison, they said, has about 40,000 abandoned residential properties.
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