It was a nice night, a little more than a week ago, the Danny Road resident recalled, and he was sitting on his front stoop when he looked across the street and saw a rat running into one of his neighbor's hedges. He said he went across the street to alert his neighbor, who got out a flashlight and the two began looking around when they spotted another rat.
Residents of normally placid Readville gathered at the Sunset Bocce Club tonight to share recent rat tales with aides to the mayor and City Councilor Tim McCarthy - and with veteran local rat catcher Tim McA'Nulty - and to ask what the neighborhood and the city can do about a sudden onslaught of the long-tailed, whiskered pests along streets such as Danny and Como Road.
One resident recalled how he learned there were rats around when his dog killed one, then another, then several more. Other residents went "Oh my God!" when he described going on a walk around the neighborhood and spotting as many as ten rats, bold as could be, scurrying around in broad daylight.
Steve Maguire, an aide to McCarthy, said the ISD inspector who handles Readville has already made some inspections, but is planning more. He said he plans to distribute consent forms that will let the inspector go on private property to look for droppings, gnaw marks and possible entrances to rat burrows. He apologized for the inspector not attending the meeting, but said neither he nor the inspector knew about it until yesterday - residents felt they had to get together quickly to figure out what to do.
McA'Nulty, whose family's AAA Exterminating Co. has been battling rats in the area since the 1930s, said he did not know why the area is seeing so many rats all of a sudden, although he noted banner crops of acorns the past couple of seasons might be partly to blame - for not just rats, but mice, chipmunks and turkeys as well. He added that the explosion in these populations in turn is leading to a boom in predator births, so residents can expect to see more coyotes and foxes as well.
McA'Nulty said he doubted some construction in the area has forced rats in, but allowed as how a poorly maintained house on West Milton Street that was finally torn down certainly didn't help matters.
He urged residents to put a tight lid on trash and to clean up any debris or wood piles that might serve as convenient hiding places and homes for the rats. He added dog owners need to be especially vigilant about cleaning up after their pets, because rats are big fans of dog feces - and that bird lovers should maybe consider cutting back on feeders, since omnivorous rodents also enjoy the seeds that fall to the ground from them.
Reducing rat access to food is particularly important, he said, because rats are pretty savvy consumers and if they have to choose between real food and the poison bait traps he uses, they'll usually go for the food, defeating the usefulness of the fatal doses of blood thinners in the bait.
Although he wouldn't turn down any homeowner's business, McA'Nulty said it's really important for the entire neighborhood to band together and fight the rats as one, because rats are prolific breeders and all it takes is one parcel to become home to a rat colony and efforts to control the rats might fail.
He added that residents shouldn't be ashamed to seek help fighting rats. "There's no scarlet 'S'" when it comes to rats, he said, adding even the most pristine of homes could fall victim to the animals, if not for food, then for a place to burrow and start a colony.