Complaints about rodents increased in the District for the first time in seven years, and University and city officials are responding with increased pest control efforts.
In 1999, Mayor Anthony Williams held a pest control summit to eliminate the city’s rodent population through public education. Since then, complaints have dropped significantly each year until 2007 when they jumped about 10 percent. In 2007, there were 3,391 total complaints in the city.
“Winter usually acts as a natural exterminator (of rats),” said Sybil Bowick, a spokesperson for the Department of Health. She said recent warm winters have made the rat population more noticeable than before.
The department’s public education outreach programs include distribution of literature on how to identify rat shelters and report rodent sightings. They have recently assigned these task forces to help reduce the rodent population in Georgetown and Dupont Circle, but said they have no current plans for such a task force in Foggy Bottom.
Lashon Seastrunk, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, said she hopes the University will handle any pest problems on campus.
“We have noticed a small increase in the number of requests for service with regard to rodent activity, as compared to last year,” said Nancy Haaga, managing director of Campus Support Services. “The majority of recent requests have been received from locations on the north side of campus.”
Haaga said the University inspects the campus for rodents and any access points to buildings before setting up traps. In the past year, she said the University has implemented a baiting program to address residence halls with increased reports.
“Firstly, we inspect the areas for visible evidence of pests and possible access points,” she said. “Secondly, traps are set in place to catch and remove pests.” Following this, she said her staff monitors the area to make sure the pests have been eliminated.
Sophomore Samantha Mooney, a resident of Munson Hall, has had three mouse sightings in her residence hall.
Mooney immediately reported the encounters to Residential Property Management each time she saw a mouse. She said RPM was unhelpful in controlling the problem because they responded days after the reports.
“I feel like RPM is not taking this seriously,” Mooney said. RPM staff inspected Mooney’s room, and assured her she would have no more mouse problems after setting up traps. Two days later, Mooney saw another mouse run across her room, and eventually a third a few weeks later.
Mooney’s neighbor, sophomore Zeina Hinnawi, also said she noticed rodents in the lobby of Munson as well as in her friend’s first floor dorm in JBKO Hall.
The University has not been able to identify a specific cause of the rodent problems, but most of the reports are nearer to the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor. Haaga speculated that the higher concentration of food service establishments may be a factor.
She added that controlling pests in the area is often an individual effort. Some preventative measures include keeping food in sealed containers, properly managing garbage, washing dishes and keeping floors neat.
Correction: The Hatchet misquoted Sybil Bowick saying that “Wind usually acts as a natural exterminator.” Bowick said “Winter usually acts as a natural exterminator.”