Calls of Rat Issues in Chicago Increasing During Coronavirus Pandemic, Data Shows

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The coronavirus may be having another unintended consequence in the city of Chicago: an increase in the number of complaints made to the city about rats.

The number of complaints made to the city of Chicago have skyrocketed this spring, up 46 percent for the month of May, according to records released by the Department of Streets and Sanitation.

City officials don’t think there are any more rats than usual, however.

 “It doesn’t mean that there’s a lot more rats.  People are seeing them, and they are calling,” Josie Cruz, the Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Rodent Control, said.

In addition to more sets of eyes available to see the rats since more people are at home, another issue has also arisen. With restaurants shut down for three months, rats needed a new food supply, and rats are becoming more brazen in their attempts to find sustenance.

 “So, the restaurants are closed, people are still, you know, putting garbage in the dumpsters.  They are putting things there. Rats are just looking for a food source.” Cruz says.

In May, the Centers for Disease Control first reported the closed restaurant phenomenon, and a public records request in Chicago bears out the information the CDC provided.

Overall, rat complaints for the year are up 35 percent. The month of May saw an increase of over 1000 complaints---producing the 46 percent spike for that time period.

The surge in rat complaints, though, isn’t only being witnessed by city officials.

 Rose Pest Solutions set a record for residential service calls for the month of May, according to John Bombard, who has worked for the company for 17 years.

And he adds, it really doesn’t matter where you live, rats right now are a bigger pest than normal for homeowners citywide.

“Customers are calling us that didn’t have an issue before that have rat burrows in their backyards, burrowing under porches and decks and things like that,” says Bombard.

 Compounding matters, rats can have litters of babies every six weeks, and without a steady supply of food, some male rats can even become cannibalistic.

“The alpha males, of the clan, will also become cannibalistic…they will eat their babies” in order to survive, Bombard says.

To help address the rat problem, Cruz has several tips for residents to help avoid getting the pesky rodents around their properties:

-Pick up after your pets when they use the bathroom. The faster you can pick it up, the better.

-Close recycling and trash bins.

-If you see a rat, call 311.

  And then there is this: it isn’t just rat complaints that are up for the year.  Calls for removal of dead animals are up 22-percent, but again, that doesn’t necessarily mean there are more dead animals littering Chicago streets.

“Every dead bird, anything that you see out there that’s an animal, people are calling, and we’ll pick it up,” Cruz says.

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