Thursday, January 29, 2015

Rats! [Part 3]

Ah ha. Some of you thought the rat journey was over. Not just yet, my friends.

The fun continues.

Before I pick up where I last let off, let me explain why I am writing a multi-part rat series on my running blog. When something like this happens, at first you're mad/frustrated/in tears...your choice of emotion. But after that passes, you need to find a fix. A plan of attack. And where better a place to look than Google, your local hardware store or rodent removal employee? These all seemed like logical places to look. Some gave great advice. Many gave quite poor advice. Throughout the last six weeks of last year, I just wanted someone, something, somewhere to give me the solution. The one set of actions that could, for once and all, make the rat stop eatting my car.

With that said, let me pick up where I last left off. As I recall, I was at my wits-end and had emailed my alderman, complete with pictures of the rat nest. I wasn't sure what the alderman could do. I just wanted him to know this was happening. 

Much to my surprise, I received a reply from his office less than a day later. The email informed me that the office had shared my issue with Streets & Sanitation and someone would be in contact with me in a few days. I was so surprised to receive such a quick reply that I never thought I'd receive the same from Streets & San. Sure enough, by the end of the workweek, a Streets & San truck rolled up to my alley. Dan had come to the rescue.

He assured me that his team would take a look at the property and surrounding area and provide me with updates. I told him he could call me as much as he wanted if it meant finding an end to the rat. Later that morning, after I had talked to Dan several times, I talked to Bill from the Rodents Department. 

Dan and Bill confirmed that my alley had a serious rat infestation. Add to it the drop in temperatures before Thanksgiving, and you had many rats looking for a warm place to live. From the City's side, they could only do so much - they would elevate my area on the service list to bait and trap for the next few months. They said they would then inspect their work weekly to ensure it was working. 

Then, they provided a few pointers that my property could take to be less rat appealing. 

• Rats apparently find dog feces delicious. So though you might not have a dog or are a responsible dog owner, that lazy person who isn't is leaving a rat buffet by your back door. Literally.

• There was a compost bin on the far side of our property. The bin in itself wasn't a problem, but the bottom of the unit had broken down and rats had chewed holes through the bottom of it, allowing for an easy food source nearby. Streets & San recommended that we remove it.

• Lastly, and honestly it was the most obvious yet overlooked, our dumpsters. My building has two large dumpsters which sit against the building, less than a car length from where I park. I hadn't noticed, nor had anyone else for that matter, that both of the dumpsters were rotting out on the bottoms. Rats were able to climb in and out through the bottom of the units. Once Dan and Bill mentioned this, I came to realize that most of the time I was seeing rats they were running away from our dumpsters. Between our building's management company and I, our scavenger service supplied new bins around the holidays.

So, to conclude my saga (or at least for the time being), here's what I learned:

1. If a rat wants to live in your car, it will. They do not discriminate by make or model. A rat can fit through an 1" hole and all vehicles have that.

2.Apparently newer cars are made with more soy based products which, when heated, can smell like food for rats. 

3. A good recommendation (if you live in a rural or suburban area) is to get a cat. The Treehouse Cat Shelter in Chicago has a feral cat program where you can adopt cats just for needs like mine. A few people told me about the program and it's one to look into if you can provide some basic needs for the cat.

4. Though it might not be your mess, you have to be diligent about removing trash, dog poop and anything else that could be a food source in the surrounding area.

5. Moth Balls, Critter Ridder, and whatever else in spray or dry form that Home Depot sells in their Rodents section does not work. Remember, if we had a nuclear melt down, only two things would survive: cockroaches and rats. Some residential-grade gardening tool isn't likely to phase them. Or at least not for long.

6. The best strategy to get rid of rats is to first find why they are attracted to your area. Remove the item(s) they are attracted to. Hire a private exterminator to assess and treat your property if needed to provide a steady plan. If your issue is in the public way as mine was, contact your village, city, ward, etc. to find the right person/department who deals with rodents on a daily basis. 

Dan and Bill are the unsung heroes of my story. They provided invaluable information which hopefully now means rat-free car operation for myself and all my neighbors. However, if we ever have an issue again, you better believe I saved both of their numbers.

For the time being (and hopefully forever), this concludes my rat story. I hope it helps someone, somewhere find their way out of their rat hell. 

And now we'll resume normal programming (running and yoga posts).

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