Summer 2016 Sees Explosion of Rat Complaints in Chicago

Andrew Buchanan could not believe what flew in front of his face. Just a few inches away.

“It was the most terrifying experience,” he said. “Because it was literally right in front of my face.“

Buchanan and his wife were in their Rogers Park alley when a rat sprang out from their garbage can.

“I said oh my god. My wife was like ‘was that a rat?’ I was like yes. She goes ehhhhhhhhh!"

The summer of 2016 saw an explosion of rat complaints. In fact the whole year, according to the city, has seen an overabundance of rodent reports.

“There’s been about a 37% increase in rodent complaints,” says Charles Williams, who heads the city Department of Streets and Sanitation.

The large increase, he says, is the result of a mild winter and an effort to get people to report rat sightings.

In the months of June, July and August of 2014 the city received 10,568 complaints, according to statistics released through a public records request. In 2015 there was a slight increase to 10,749. But this summer—in 3 months---the number spiked to 13,520.

The complaints came from all over Chicago, including nine rat complaints from the 900 block of West 36h Street and one from the address of the Harold Washington Library.

But by far the largest number catalogued on a large map in a City Hall conference room came from the north side, in many cases areas known for pricey homes and expensive restaurants. Rats, after all says Commissioner Williams like good food.

Even the mayor’s street in Ravenswood was not immune.

Someone in an apartment building directly across from the Mayor’s house filed a complaint.

“The only way to manage their population is by killing the rodents. Nothing else is going to work,” Williams said.

The city says it has added ten new crews and baiting increased by 40%. In addition the city is experimenting with dry ice to suffocate rats, while the CTA, he said, is using chemicals to advance menopause in rats to reduce the birth rate.

Most of all, the city says, close those garbage can lids, pick up after your pets and don’t scream when you see a rat---call 311

But for some, like Audrey Colone, those remedies haven’t been good enough.

“It wouldn’t just be one or two, it would be multiple,” she said of the rats in the 5700 block of North Artesian. And it wasn’t just a night. “In the daylight, in the evening, all hours of the day,” she noted.

Folks don’t like rodents running around their property,” said Williams.

Audrey Colone agrees 100%. Last month she moved.

“One of the key factors in moving was the rats,” she said. She now lives in a northern suburb, where when asked if she still has rats she laughed, “No. I have rabbits.”

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