On Patrol for Neighborhood Rats
SHIRLEY -- A group of town officials, a sanitation agent from the Nashoba Associated Boards of Health and an exterminator inspected a housing development Friday morning where residents have reported rat sightings and tell-tale signs of infestations.
But after walking around the area, a densely clustered series of linked streets and about 40 houses off Lancaster Road, and poking around areas where people said they’d spotted rat burrows, the rat patrol found only one site that looked like one. The other suspected rat burrows were more likely chipmunk holes, the officials said.
Board of Health member Jay Howlett took part in the tour with Ira Grossman, Shirley’s sanitation agent, and Michael Streck, of Pest Control Unlimited, whose Tyngsboro firm the town was hired to look into the problem.
Streck said he’d seen rat-infested neighborhoods but in his opinion, this wasn’t one of them. In those instances where he determines there is a rat problem, he sets out bait traps, he said, and in a few days, the rats are gone. There’s no need to do that here, he said, at least not now.
But some people in the area -- Deer Avenue, Brook Avenue, Apple Rock Way and Valley View Way -- believed there was an infestation over the summer. One family, Eric and Lindsay Calderwood and their three young children, moved out of their Deer Avenue home after finding rats inside. They’ve since moved back in and the rats are gone.
Grossman said he inspected the premises before the family moved back in. The Calderwoods had taken extreme measures such as setting dozens of traps around the house, he said, as well as sealing up any gaps where rats could get in,
Earlier this month, the Calderwoods and other residents, fearful things would get worse and that the local health board and the Board of Selectmen were not taking the situation seriously, formed a kind of impromptu action committee and showed up in force at a selectmen meeting.
The selectmen’s response was to form a task force to brainstorm solutions to the problem, part of which hinged on ensuring that rodent control and prevention measures provided by the health board were being enforced.
Howlett, who was in on the brainstorming session, assured them that those who did not comply with instructions, such as clearing yards of cast-off furniture and debris, storing trash properly and keeping pet food indoors, would be fined. Most people had cleaned up, he said.
That was pretty much the case during Friday’s site walk, although Grossman spotted a couple of houses with full trash bags outside that he would later check up on, he said.
Residents who were part of the problem-solving group were informed but none of them came.
A man walking his dog said he lived in the neighborhood but had never had a rat problem at his house.
Town Administrator Mike McGovern said he has spoken to others who said the same thing, including Steven Roche of Valley View Way.
The Board of Health and Board of Selectmen sent out a letter to all the residents in the development and also posted it on the town website and Facebook page, McGovern said. It spells out in detail how to keep rats from moving into your yard, neighborhood or house.
But if you do spot a rat or think rats are living on your property or in your house, what should you do?
“Call an exterminator,” Grossman said.