Urban Rodent Control Strategies

There’s an epidemic afflicting America’s cities and it’s not drugs, homelessness or sky-high rents. All of these are of course serious problems, but one that gets little publicity is rodent infestation. And it’s not as if the problem isn’t out in plain sight for all to see. Rats and mice scurrying around dumpsters and trash receptacles, often in broad daylight, has become a common sight in most major American cities. There are several factors contributing to this problem: ready access to food from restaurants and food service businesses, open and overflowing trash receptacles and easy access to warmth and shelter in the way of buildings and other structures that are in abundance in urban settings.

Rodents threaten public health and the bottom line

Rodent infestation presents challenges for both local governments and commercial property owners alike. By the time evidence of rodents – most often rats – is discovered, their populations are most likely well-established and their numbers can be staggering. Besides being a nuisance and eyesore, rodents are also carriers of disease. Bubonic plague anyone?

Beyond creating a serious threat to community health, rodents are having a detrimental impact on the bottom lines of urban businesses. This is especially true for businesses in the food services and hospitality industries. Public health violations can be cited for a variety of reasons including rodent infestation. It also doesn’t help business when rats are scurrying around diners on an outdoor patio of a restaurant or upscale hotel.

When it becomes evident that a business is dealing with a rodent control problem the instinct is to enlist the services of a pest control company or exterminator. These types of businesses typically offer a full range of pest control services ranging from spraying for bugs to eradicating mice and rats to the trapping and removal of bats and raccoons.

The pest control methods offered up by these extermination companies are mainly of the lethal variety utilizing poisons and kill traps. Such methods are far from permanent solutions and often serve in only providing temporary relief. It should come as little wonder that their business model comes bundled in a monthly contract. Their work is seldom ever done so they keep coming back month after month along with their monthly invoice!

A collection of rodent control strategies

Truly effective rodent control consists of a multi-pronged approach requiring both a public and private response. Local government has the responsibility of maintaining public facilities and green spaces. For keeping rodents in check, this consists of providing adequate trash receptacles and keeping them emptied on a regular schedule. However, this can become challenging, and often, trash receptacles in public places present a free-for-all for rodents.

A novel approach being undertaken by cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC is the deployment of “SmartBelly” solar-powered trash receptacles. These trash containers are over-sized to handle more refuse and are designed to keep the public from coming into contact with the trash inside. These cans are also designed to prevent trash from blowing away. An additional benefit is that these containers are virtually impenetrable to rodents. Finally, technological advancements allow for remote notification and monitoring of the receptacles to facilitate emptying and tracking which locations fill up quicker.

Local government is also responsible for fielding and responding to resident and business complaints for rodent sightings and infestation reports. An employee is typically dispatched to inspect the property and then may or may not send out a crew in an attempt to deal with the problem. The results of their efforts are often a mixed bag according to many complainants.

Dealing with rodent infestation at the source

Urban environments provide a welcoming and accommodating habitat for rodents. The wealth of food sources and ready shelter from the elements and predators is ideal. It may come as a surprise, but rodents often choose to build their nests outdoors. This makes sense when you consider this allows them to be closer to food sources such as dumpsters, trash cans, and the generators of the most delectable varieties of trash: humans.

Rats and mice are resourceful when finding shelter outdoors and will burrow underground in grassy areas and garden beds. Their extremely sharp and strong teeth allow them to gnaw through the thick plastic used to construct outdoor flower containers and planters. Once snug in the soil within these containers, they can then scurry short distances to snack on discarded food and to bring nesting materials back to their burrows. It’s important to note that for every rat you observe above ground there are most likely hundreds more lurking out of sight inside various types of burrows.

Confronting outdoor infestations is best dealt with by a commercial landscaping company that is both skilled and experienced in exterior landscape maintenance and commercial rodent control methods. A commercial landscaping firm will know how to carefully dig up shrubbery, plants, sod and small trees and preserve them for eventual replanting. Businesses invest good money in installing and maintaining exterior landscaping and the typical “bug man” or pest control company most likely will not have the experience or patience for such care often leaving business owners to effectively pay twice for exterior rodent control.

A commercial landscaping firm with expertise in rodent control will deploy a variety of methods to evict rodents and then keep them from returning. Once foliage has been temporarily and safely removed from planters and garden beds, an effective barrier is put in place. Plastic containers and concrete raised beds are lined with steel mesh which rodents are unable to gnaw their way through.

The exteriors of buildings are next inspected for openings that can provide access points for rodents to gain entry to the interior. Rats are capable of squeezing through an opening no larger than the diameter of a quarter! Such an approach is a two-step process consisting of sealing off nesting and burrowing areas and then putting up an effective barrier to surrounding structures once rodents have been displaced.

The final step in the overall process exterior rodent control process is the replanting of foliage back into its original containers after a fresh application of soil. Again, this step is best performed by an experienced commercial landscaping firm.