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Monroeville targets rat colony headed toward Garden City

| Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Rat holes, like this one, are becoming more common in the Garden City area of Monroeville.

Monroeville officials launched a counterattack this week against a rat colony that is migrating toward homes in Garden City.

Allegheny County Health inspectors have found evidence of the rodents' nighttime travels outside of 14 homes in Garden City. Evidence that included “grease marks” left behind as they scurry along the sides of houses, said Dave Zazac, spokesperson for the Health Department.

As of Monday, municipal officials planned to take an “aggressive approach eradicating any infestation that could be on municipal property,” said municipal Manager Lynette McKinney.

Officials notified some homeowners of code violations that may be attracting the rodents, while county inspectors went door to door last week to educate homeowners on preventative measures. They cautioned against using plastic garbage cans.

Megan Burkhardt, a resident on Cottonwood Drive, said she found holes burrowed in a flower box outside of her family's home.

“They told us to get metal garbage cans so (the rats) can't chew through them,” Burkhardt said.

Rats have been known to dig elaborate tunnel systems in residential subdivisions, said Kim Kelley-Tunis, director of technical services for Orkin Pest Control.

“In a situation where food is abundant, water is abundant, and they can find mates and a relatively nice area to live. You can have a fairly elaborate colony that's set up with a tunnel system or burrows,” Kelley-Tunis said.

Health Department officials said that the rats did not appear to have migrated from an outside area, as sometimes happens when there is a fire or flood.

Garden City resident John Germany said it's the first time he's heard of a rat problem on his street since moving in to the neighborhood 35 years ago.

“If I see one around my house anywhere, I'm putting some poison out,” Germany said. “I'm gonna get rid of them.”

Zazac cautioned that only licensed pest control operators should lay bait.

“There's the danger of applying it (improperly), where it can be dug up by pets or other animals” he said.

A long list of infectious diseases carried by rats include salmonella and rat bite fever, Kelley-Tunis said. The diseases can cause flu-like symptoms and typically are contracted when a rat contaminates a food source. She said a rat can squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter, so residents should be proactive in sealing the outside of their homes and keeping their bushes trimmed.

McKinney seconded that advice in a news release on Monday.

“We would appreciate that residents take a proactive approach in cleaning up after their pets, purchasing garbage cans with close fitting lids, suspend feeding of wild birds and maintaining their property in compliance with the Property Maintenance Code (Ordinance No. 2479).”

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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