City efforts target growing rat populations

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Rats enter an overflowing dumpster in Georgetown. (Brady Holt/The Current/August 2012)

With warmer winters nurturing increased rat populations in D.C., the District government is working to pre-emptively identify and eliminate infestations.

At a “rat walk” in Dupont Circle on Monday, Mayor Muriel Bowser discussed the city’s Rodent Abatement Predictive Analysis project, which intends to generalize data from 311 reports to automatically suggest likely infestation spots.

“Currently, the Department of Health’s Rodent Control Team mostly inspects locations where rats have been reported by residents,” a news release from the mayor’s office states. “However, there may be places in the city where rat infestations go unreported, increasing the citywide rodent population.”

The Health Department also intends to double its number of pest controllers and rodent-control code enforcers in 2018, and to roll out other rat control strategies, the release states. Rat-abatement requests increased 65 percent from 2015 to 2016, to more than 3,500 last year.

During the event, Bowser also reminded residents to avoid leaving trash accessible to rats by putting it outside shortly before collection and using metal or sturdy plastic containers; to remove weeds and debris where rats could easily hide; and to report rat issues to 311.

Other rat-control steps the city has taken this year include installing 400 trash cans with sensors that alert crews when they have filled up; installing 25 trash cans with built-in solar-powered trash compactors; and providing grants for 29 businesses to purchase or lease trash compactors.