Several reports of rodents and wildlife rummaging through curbside and Dumpster trash in the city of Laurel has Fire Marshal David Cope urging residents to take precautions when disposing of garbage and recyclables.
The spring and summer months generally see an increase in pest problems, whether it's rats and raccoons knocking over trashcans or digging garbage out of Dumpsters. Although the city doesn't keep track of the number of reports, Cope said incident numbers have remained steady over the past three or four years.
"Probably 85 percent of our complaints are people who go out to the trashcan and make noise, and then a rat runs away and they call us," Cope said. "We're trying to get the word out to everybody that you should leave your trashcan lids on and shouldn't over pack your trashcan so it falls on the ground."
When responding to a pest complaint, an employee with the Office of the Fire Marshal and Permit Services and the police department's animal control officer have 24 hours to respond and search the area to find out what drew the animal there. Often times, Cope said, residents don't have or keep a lid on their trashcans, leaving garbage easily accessible.
The fire marshal's office also responds to calls from businesses, restaurants and apartment complexes, where they've found trash discarded on top of or around Dumpsters.
If there is a pest issue, property owners are required to contact a pest control company.
"Most of them will come out and put traps in the area," Cope said. "We try to stay away from having rat poison put out because other animals get into that and it kills them too. We need to clean up our own mess in order to get rid of them."
The following tips to prevent pests were provided by the city of Laurel:
• Dispose of leftover pet food as well as pet waste as soon as possible.
• Use snap, glue, life or humane traps to get rid of pests inside residence.
• Any food stored outside should be kept in an airtight container.
• Do not touch pests or their droppings with bare hands to prevent exposure to possible diseases.
For more information, contact the city's animal control officer at 301-498-0092. Property standards violations, such as trash and debris, on privateproperty should be reported to the Office of the Fire Marshal and Permit Services at 301-725-5300, ext. 2238.