EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 26, 2013

Rodent 'explosion' depletes health department budget

By Bethany Bray

---- — SALEM — This time of year usually has municipal leaders worrying about whether their snowplowing budget has been depleted.

In Salem, it’s the rodent control budget that has been spent down to zero.

The city has seen a rodent “explosion” after last year’s unusually warm winter encouraged breeding, said Salem Health Agent Larry Ramdin.

“We’re seeing more (rat) activity than in a normal year,” he said. “Rodents normally hibernate in winter ... Last year they kept breeding and the population exploded.”

The rodent boom has caused the health department to spend through its $2,000 rodent control budget in the first six months of the fiscal year. This week, the City Council approved a transfer of an additional $1,500 for rodent control.

Ramdin said it’s the first time they’ve had to replenish the account midyear.

The health department has received an increased number of calls from residents who have seen rats this year. The complaints are coming from all over the city, Ramdin said, not one particular area.

It’s becoming a problem across the Northeast; Ramdin said he’s talked with other area health agents who have also seen a spike in rodent sightings.

The rodent control funds are used to lay poison bait in city storm drains, Ramdin said.

The bait — along with residents’ efforts to eliminate food sources — is helping to eliminate the problem, Ramdin said.

“It seems to be having some effect,” he said.

Ramdin encouraged residents to secure possible rodent food sources, including trash, pet dishes and even spillover from bird feeders.

“Rodents will come if they have a source of food and a source of water,” he said. “When it starts to warm up, people need to be very conscious that they’re not providing either to rodents.”

Bethany Bray can be reached at bbray@salemnews.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.