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Columbus to comb Clintonville for rats before committing to eradication plan

City hopes to assess 500 to 1,000 local properties; data will determine its next step

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Some form of rat control will be instituted next year, a Columbus Public Health official announced last week.

Just how intensive that effort will be is going to depend on an assessment of the rat population currently underway in Clintonville and what public-health officials can persuade Mayor Michael B. Coleman to set aside for it in his budget, said Keith L. Krinn, environmental health division administrator.

Krinn and Scott R. Whittaker, program manager for vector control with the Division of Environmental Health, gave a presentation at last week's meeting of the Clintonville Area Commission on the rodent situation in the neighborhood.

The CAC passed a resolution in September asking city personnel to conduct a study of rats in the neighborhood and to institute a control program.

"We're acknowledging that, yes, they are here," Whittaker said.

District 8 representative Kristopher Keller first raised the issue of a potential rat infestation in Clintonville in August, after he and some of his neighbors spotted the rodents during the day.

A sighting of rats during daylight hours is a good indication there are plenty of them around, Whittaker said last week. Rats are typically nocturnal.

"Columbus is not alone in this situation," Krinn said.

Many cities are experiencing a resurgence in the rat population, which had been well-controlled during the 1970s and '80s under a program funded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, he said. The program went away when funding was dropped, he added.

Krinn speculated that ongoing highway construction work and various projects along the Olentangy River may be why more and more rats are now calling Clintonville and other parts of the city home.

Public-health officials have chosen 33 "random blocks" in Clintonville in the hope of completing between 500 and 1,000 property inspections regarding the infestation, Whittaker said. That assessment, he added, would produce "statistically significant data" under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for determining if a control program is needed.

Four different levels of control effort, each with different funding levels required, have been submitted to Coleman's office, Krinn said.

"We know we're going to have some kind of program in the new budget cycle," he said.

The budget won't take effect until February, Krinn added.

More than 1,000 Clintonville residents have been visited so far in the rat-study effort, Whittaker said.

"We're seeing a lot of burrows around houses and old sheds," he said.

Along with looking for rats and their burrows, health-department personnel are distributing information on ways to get rid of the vermin.

This includes cleaning pet waste promptly, because rats will eat dog and cat feces, "believe it or not," Whittaker said.

A flier regarding rats is available at Columbus Public Health's website.

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