In her first meeting as a member of the Clintonville Area Commission five years ago, Libby Wetherholt recalled, the main topic was rats.

They're back.

The vermin once again were front and center at the panel's July 5 session, with Ryan Younge, vector-control manager for Columbus Public Health, offering what was listed on the agenda as a "rat refresher course."

"We've had an uptick in some rat activity in Clintonville, a lot of service requests for 311," Younge said. "A lot of that is attributed to some construction projects going on in the neighborhood."

This construction work, notably of late in the area of Acton Road, has rousted rats from their existing homes and sent them in quest of new digs as well as a source of food, Younge said.

That, he indicated, is where the general public can assist in controlling rat populations: by making their yards less of a smorgasbord for the critters.

"It's great to have gardens, awesome to have gardens, but if you have fallen fruits and vegetables, rats will eat that," Younge said.

They are not particular animals, so dog feces also is on the menu for rats. Younge recommended cleaning up after pets that do their business in yards.

"Another very common thing we see is birdseed," he said. "Rats love it."

Rats live in colonies and have an alpha male served by beta males. The latter, Younge said, are the ones sent out to test food sources to ensure they are safe for the leader of the pack.

When it comes to controlling rats by killing colonies, the best method also is the one that cannot be used in populated areas, Younge said.

Directly placing bait in burrows ensures the poison gets to every level of rat hierarchy but also poses a potential threat to children and pets, he said.

Therefore, bait boxes accessible only to rats are used -- but the problem with those is that the creatures are phobic about new things in their environment and hesitant about entering the traps, Younge said.

"Rats follow humans," he said. "They like dense populations. It's kind of their nature. They just like to go near people."

The creatures also have teeth that never stop growing, so they are constantly gnawing on things.

"They will chew through weak concrete," Younge said. "I've seen foundations in garages just absolutely chewed to pieces."

CAC members in September 2013 passed a resolution asking for a study of the rat situation in the neighborhood in response to residents spotting growing numbers of the vermin.

The unusually brief CAC meeting opened with the seating of two new members, with Dana Bagwell replacing Matthew Cull in District 5 and John Eschenbrenner becoming the District 7 representative after Jason Meek, like Cull, opted not to seek another term.

The election of officials for 2018-19 followed, with Wetherholt once again the lone nominee for chairwoman.

"Thank you very much," she said.

Per the commission's bylaws, this will be the last year Wetherholt can serve as chairwoman.

Judy Minister, who was returned to the District 4 seat unopposed in the May election, was named vice chairwoman.

B.J. White of District 9 will take over as secretary from Cull, and Eschenbrenner will serve as treasurer, replacing the man he replaced on the panel.

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1