Rat extermination

A Baltimore County sign alerts residents that rodent extermination efforts began this week in the Riverview section of southwestern Baltimore County. (Photo by Nate Pesce / February 10, 2013)

Rats in alleyways. Rats in backyards. Rats boldly gnawing through heavy plastic garbage bags. Rats that seem to be the size of cats. Rats everywhere.

Those living in the Riverview area of Lansdowne have faced such scenes for some time now.

Help from an unexpected source seems to be the only thing keeping the rat population somewhat under control in the area.

"We have snakes in the area, trust me that's something I want," said Ron Whitehead, president of Riverview-Ryerson Circle Communities Association. "Snakes eat rats."

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The community has been plagued with an infestation of rats that has continued to grow while concerned residents battled with county code enforcement officials to take action.

This week, that action will take place, according to Lionel van Dommelen, chief of code enforcement for Baltimore County.

The county's Rat Attack program, a countywide effort to treat and eliminate rat infestations, began in Riverview Feb. 11.

Rats have been a problem in Riverview for more than three years, according to Whitehead.

Trash accumulation in alleyways, called easements, is the main cause of the growing infestation, he said.

"People just throw stuff in there, they're a mess," Whitehead said.

Whitehead said that the trash, combined with people not picking up dog waste and leaving out food for birds, has created a massive problem in his neighborhood.

"People throwing food out for birds and squirrels, it's a smorgasbord for rats and rodents," he said.

Dommelen agreed that trash is one of the biggest attractions that bring rats to a neighborhood.

"The population of rats will grow or shrink in direct proportion to the food supply," Dommelen said.

"If folks are not cleaning these things up and storing their trash properly, then the population grows," he said.

A single breeding pair of rats can, under ideal circumstances, produce as many as 80 offspring in one year, according to a county press release.

Dommelen said that purchasing metal trash cans and making sure to pick up dog waste can make a big difference.

The county's rat eradication program began last April. It has treated more than 2,100 county residences so far under a five-year, $750,000 contact with a local exterminator at a cost of $8 per residence.

Daniel Purdie, or "Big Dan, the Pest Man," a licensed exterminator based in Gwynn Oak, contracted with the county, and was scheduled to begin targeting and treating rat burrows in Riverview Monday, Feb 11.

He injects the holes with a poisonous powder called Ditrac. Once the rats leave their burrows, it will get onto their fur and later kill them.