Revere gives a hoot about rats

March 16, 2017

By LEAH DEARBORN

REVERE — A persistent rodent problem prompted one city councilor to consider using owls and other natural predators to attack a public health concern.

Councilor-at-Large George Rotondo proposed the unusual solution in January, in addition to the bulk purchase of several hundred bait traps to counter a rodent infestation he said results in three or four calls from constituents every week.  

“We’re inundated with rats,” he said. “It’s not a joke.”

The idea of bringing in predators like owls and skunks isn’t quite as wild as it sounds. As far back as 1989, the New York City Parks Department built a number of boxes for barn owls to help control the rat problem in Central Park.  

“I’d be in favor of anything that works,” said Councilor-at-Large Anthony T. Zambuto, who suggested a consultant be hired to further analyze the root cause of the issue.

Zambuto attributed the apparent influx of rodents to a combination of factors, including improper trash disposal and increased development disturbing rat habitats in the city.

Keeping vermin under control has proven to be difficult; in 2016, Terri’s Little Pumpkins daycare facility on Squire Road was shut down by the state after dead rodents were found in the kitchen, among other regulatory violations.  

Anna, a 73-year-old resident of Philomena Avenue, who requested her last name not be used, said she’s lived in Revere for nearly two decades and never saw a rat until the past year or so.  

“In my head, I dream of them. I’m so scared of them,” she said.

She said she’s taken steps to keep the rodents from her garbage by using a lid and spraying the bags with a Cayenne pepper mixture.  

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Nicholas Catinazzo, director of municipal inspections, said it’s unlikely that construction played a major role in pushing rats into more residential sections of the city. Before any building can be demolished, it must first be baited for 10 days.

He said the city has had an aggressive baiting program in place for three or four years now, and that inspectors are always sent out to residences that report rat sightings.  

As for Rotondo’s idea of bringing predators into the city, the rodent issue was reassigned to a subcommittee for further study.

Catinazzo said that down the line, the city may consider baiting sewer lines. He said the mayor has expressed an interest in discussing a budget increase for the rodent control program as well.

“It’s a very difficult problem,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any perfect, easy answer.”


Leah Dearborn can be reached at ldearborn@itemlive.com.