City begins targeted rat abatement program

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published December 17, 2013

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Another few weeks of data study will be necessary before knowing if a new, targeted approach to rat control in St. Clair Shores has been effective.

Assistant City Manager Mike Smith told City Council during a Dec. 9 study session that St. Clair Shores blanketed a neighborhood with inspectors in October. He said he didn’t want to break the trust the city had built with that neighborhood by announcing the street names at the meeting.

The city sent a letter Oct. 23 to 212 homes indicating that “we would be coming into their area to do a house-by-house inspection of that area,” looking for signs of rats or possible areas of harborage. Residents were told to respond to the city if they did not want their home to be part of the program; only two out of 212 did so.

Inspections conducted Nov. 4 found rodent activity at 63 addresses, Smith said, such as rodent droppings, evidence of trails or holes. About 25 homes had violations that would lead to rodent occupation, he said, but a week later, all but two of those homes had fixed all of the violations. A week after that, all the problems had been rectified.

“People really had no idea that fruit on the ground was the problem that it was,” Smith said. “In some cases, they had whole yards full of fruit … pretty clearly a nice source of feed for the rodent population.”

Smith said the city has been baiting the 63 homes for about five weeks now and would be able to determine the program’s success after it has 90 days of data.

If the targeted approach is successful, he said, they would expand to another problem area in the city in the spring, as it is hard to see evidence of rodent activity or ordinance violations that could lead to rodents in wintertime.

“We can move into areas much more quickly … if we know the process is working,” he said.

The cost to canvas and bait the houses was $9,220.

Resident Erin Stahl said she hoped the city would investigate the program’s validity.

“What’s the results from all of that? The effectiveness? And what is the return on investment?” she said before Council discussed the matter in a Dec. 9 study session. “Instead of just continuing to throw money at this thing … develop a plan.”

City Council members were slightly perturbed to hear the program had been implemented without further go-ahead from that body.

“I didn’t know we had begun implementing this program,” said Councilwoman Candice Rusie, who objected to the fact that residents had to respond to the letter to opt-out of the program instead of contacting the city to opt-in. “We had said we would like it to come back to us for discussion. I didn’t get an update that this did happen until tonight.”

And after being told that inspectors would enter the yard occupied by a dog, even if they got no response after knocking, Councilman Chris Vitale said that wasn’t a good idea.

“If we’ve got a dog in the yard, I don’t think we should be entering,” he said. “The behavior’s not predictable, (and) you might open the gate and somebody’s dog might run out.

“Knock. If we don’t get an answer, we don’t go in.”

Mayor Kip Walby and other council members agreed, also indicating to Smith that staff should add an email address to the opt-out letters so residents have another way of letting the city know to stay off their property.