Rats! Are You Attracting Rodents Unintentionally?

September 7, 2010 Updated Sep 7, 2010 at 9:56 PM EDT

By Ginger Geoffery

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September 7, 2010 Updated Sep 7, 2010 at 9:56 PM EDT

KENMORE, NY (WKBW) -- The Village of Kenmore switched residents to garbage totes a few years ago in an effort to deal with a rat problem. It worked but now that the rats can't easily get to people's garbage the rodents have taken to feeding on bird seed.

"I grew up in Kenmore and it's the worst I've ever seen," says Gary Caito who started spotting rats in his yard in July. "We were sitting out here at 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon and we'd see four or five rats running through the yard. It's like the I-90."

"Between June and about August 15th we saw our numbers double in rat complaints that we've been responding to in the Village of Kenmore and Town of Tonawanda," say Peter Tripi, Senior Public Health Sanitarian for the Erie County Health Department.

Tripi suspects the mostly dry summer has made rats more active in searching for water. The rodents are also now turning to bird seed for their meals since garbage is no longer as accessible as it use to be.

"People like to watch the birds and they'll allow bird seed to spill onto the ground," says Tripi.

Bird seed left on the ground though is against the law. Kenmore currently has to rely on the County to enforce the law but that could change on Tuesday night when the village board votes on their own version of the law.

"Hopefully we're going to be able to control the rats a little better and we'll be able to enforce it ourselves," says Michael Berns, Building Inspector for the Village of Kenmore.

Gary Caito wasn't feeding the birds but some of his neighbors were.

"One yard can mess up the whole neighborhood," says Caito.

He called the County about the rat problem. Within a couple of days County representatives came out for an inspection. They convinced the neighbors to take down the bird feeders and the county inspectors set up bait boxes in Caito's yard.

"I trapped 12 or 13 (rats) back here in my yard with four traps," says Caito.

Tripi revisited Caito's property on Tuesday and believes the problem is under control in the immediate area for now. He's hoping all the residents will take steps to make sure it stays that way.

"We need to fight rats one yard at a time," says Tripi, "We need to start looking at our own yards and seeing what we're doing that might be wrong that might be causing a problem."

Experts say unenclosed compost piles, dog excrement, fruit fallen from trees or vegetables from gardens can also attract rats so it's important to keep those things cleaned up.