Washington, D.C., prepares to crack down on rat problem

WASHINGTON - The District of Columbia for years has been plagued by a growing mischief in its midst. Rats - the four-legged, bewhiskered kind - have been spotted roaming the streets, scurrying across alleys and eating their way through trash cans.

On Monday, a rat made its way onto the White House lawn.

According to the District's resident rat guru, Gerard Brown, with the D.C. Department of Health, it was probably one of many rats "flushed out" of its burrow by heavy weekend rain.

"Water doesn't kill them or reduce them at all - rats can swim for as long as a week - but what it does do is make it difficult for them to find food," Brown said. "That draws them out, too."

Rat sightings correlate with a number of factors, Brown said: Food sources, weather and population density.

Recently, D.C. has had a perfect storm of all three, Brown said, with mild winters and booming development bringing more people, and trash, into the District.

On Jan. 1, an additional $906,000 the city allocated to help the Department of Health get a handle on D.C.'s rat problem will kick in. Brown said the money will be used to hire staff and equip exterminators with mobile devices that use geolocation data to track rat complaints in real time, among other things.

"Technology is evolving into rodent control," he said.

Residents and visitors are encouraged to call 311 to report rat sightings so the city can keep track of which areas are most affected. Brown said the city has not received any reports of rats on the White House grounds in recent years.

The White House and its neighboring park, Lafayette Square, are maintained by the National Park Service, which conducts rodent sweeps weekly.

Park Service spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles said recent rat activity near the White House has not increased.

"Rats are very much an urban challenge," she said. "We haven't seen a change, or a need for immediate concern, around the White House."

Brown said the city's rat offensive, which includes sterilization and extermination, will kick off in Ward 1 next year and work its way through each ward in numerical succession.

"Every human in D.C. comes within five feet of a rat every single day," Brown said. "They just may not always know it."




Loading comments...
Hide Comments

Stories that may interest you

Europe sets heat records as much of continent sizzles

The heat wave that gripped large parts of western and central Europe has forced drivers to slow down on some of Germany's famously speedy autobahns

Tech giants face questions on hate speech going into debates

Executives of Facebook, Google and Twitter faced questioning by a House panel Wednesday on their efforts to stanch terrorist content and viral misinformation on their social media platforms.

A year after newsroom attack, journalists embraced by city

At a time when journalists are being vilified as "the enemy of the people," staff members at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis are feeling renewed appreciation in their Maryland community

Kushner tries to sell $50 billion Mideast economic plan to skeptical audience

Kushner seeks support from absent and protesting Palestinians for $50 billion economic support plan