Hope Harrison sat in amusement last July when she looked out the office window of her house on Harwitch Road and saw a rat sliding along the shepherd’s hook and holding a bird feeder in her back yard – in broad daylight.
In the 20 years that Harrison lived in the apartment with her husband Wade and sons Jake, Ryan, and Alex, she had never seen a rat on their property.
But from May through the rest of the summer, Harrison said, it became more common for her to see rats in her back yard and while she was walking around her neighborhood.
“I noticed that they were literally buried in the mulch bed in front of my house,” Harrison said. “At that point we decided this was an all-out war.
“We set some traps around my house and stopped removing bird seed. We have our firewood on racks and covered with tarpaulins. ”
At the height of the infiltration, Harrison said, rats caught her traps daily, even though she had eliminated all known food sources in her yard.
City inspectors did not see any obvious problems after looking around at their request.
Harrison said she has not seen any rat activity in her yard or the neighborhood since the summer.
“We’ll see what happens in spring I think,” she said. “Nobody is immune to it.”
For the past few months, the City of Upper Arlington has been posting rodent management tips on social media and City Manager Steve Schoeny devoted his “For the Record” section of November 9 on the city’s website to the topic. Officials said there is no widespread infestation at the moment.
According to Tom Paisley, Code Compliance Officer, the city does not pursue any rodent-specific complaints “because it tends to attract many different species”.
Rather, he said the city was collecting data related to “composting of food and / or the feeding of wildlife to the soil”.
Paisley said the city received 28 such complaints in 2017, 31 in 2018, 25 in 2019, and 22 in 2020. As of January 29, the city had two complaints this year.
“In the listed instances, code compliance was observed to result in food waste being placed in open compost piles and / or bird seed, popcorn and peanuts on the wildlife floor,” Paisley said. “Most residents have good intentions giving food to birds and other wildlife. Ultimately, however, it causes a negative public health impact by attracting deer, skunks, raccoons, and rodents.
“Residents who violate the open composting of food and / or soil-feeding wildlife will receive written notification.”
Emma Speight, the city’s director of community affairs, attributed the decline in wildlife-related complaints over the past two years to solid waste and recycling programming.
“We believe the decrease in complaints is related to the city’s new garbage service contract with Local Waste, which began in February 2018,” Speight said. “The city has also added drop-off points for recycling food waste in the municipal service center and at two parking locations, which has reduced the number of complaints about food waste in compost heaps on private property.”
Speight says the city typically receives a “surge” in complaints about field mice entering homes, but owners are responsible for removing or exterminating rodents on their properties.
Although the city occasionally receives “a surge of calls about specific wildlife issues,” Speight said, recent posts on rodents have been part of an effort to “regularly share reminders with the community on various topics”.
Speight, Harrison, and Jeremy Chester, owners of the Critter Control franchises in Columbus, Dayton, and Toledo, suggested that the rat migrations in recent years were at least partially due to ongoing construction across Upper Arlington.
“Triggers for rodents or other wildlife to migrate to different neighborhoods can be construction projects pushing them out of underground pipes, or the failure of a restaurant or other food-focused company to properly dispose of trash or maintain their dumpster area,” said Speight. “Once the root cause of the problem is identified, corrective action is usually enough to reduce their presence.”
Chester said he had worked in wildlife management for 20 years and during that time never saw a significant increase in service requests in Upper Arlington.
He noted that there were problems with an increasing number of rat sightings in downtown Columbus “several years ago” and believes this was due to a high volume of road and construction work at the time.
When construction slows or ends in an area, Chester says, rats and other rodents often spend most of their time underground.
This appears to be the case with Karmen Hartranft, who lives on Doone Road, who fought rats in 2016 – including one who briefly settled in her garage.
“We haven’t had a problem since then,” said Hartranft. “I think our problem started when one house was demolished and two were put in its place. Some tunnels were broken. It’s been pretty rat free for us since then. ”
While there isn’t much that residents can do to help build their homes, they can help themselves when it comes to keeping rats and other rodents off their properties, Chester said.
He said the rodents usually seek food and shelter so clearing up scraps of food in compost heaps and sealing cracks around homes, including in eaves sinks, can help.
Another big draw, Chester said, is dog litter.
“The biggest one that nobody thinks about is dog waste,” he said. “Dog poop in yards is very high in protein. This is one of their main sources of nutrition. ”
While bird feeders, as Harrison testifies, can attract rats, Chester says there is no foolproof way to evade the rodents as they migrate from other areas.
He advised people to be vigilant and reduce food sources and possible shelter for the pests, but they should not deny themselves some of the simple joys in life.
“If you see rats in your yard every day, something is going on,” said Chester. “But there are enough things to get upset about. If someone wants to feed the birds, feed the birds. Simply place the feeder as far from the house as possible. “