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Removing safe harbors, food key to rat control

As St. Clair Shores continues its attempts at rodent control, City Council heard from a local resident — who works for the Michigan Department of Agriculture — that the city is on is the right path.

Susan Downey, a district inspector in the pesticide and pest management division of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said there have been more complaints coming in to her department recently about animals becoming sick from pesticides after misapplications of the chemicals in a yard.

“When a resident is out there and faced with rats, they may try to get and take control of the rats themselves,” she said. “The one thing they have to know is the use of that pesticide must be according to the use on that label,” according to state and federal law. “People are getting sick because they’re being misapplied.”

Integrated Pest Management principles, or IPM, are the rat control program the city is using provided by the state. Downey said it’s the best way to treat a pest problem.

“It doesn’t matter what pest you’re dealing with,” she said. “The whole concept is to attack the problem by attacking what’s causing the problem — food, water, harborage.”

The city’s plan to monitor and survey hotspots of rat activity is the most efficient and effective approach to controlling the problem, if used properly, she said. At most, a community can hope to get 80 percent control of the problem, she explained; total eradication is not feasible.

“If everybody understands the principles … and they all take part and do it, you can get a handle on the problem,” she said.

Eliminating food sources and places that harbor rats will have the added benefit of
reducing the amount of pesticides used, as well.

“They’ve got to understand to get rid of the rubbish, to get rid of all the harborage, to
pick up after their dogs,” she said. “One bad apple in a neighborhood can bring a
whole neighborhood down. You have to get serious with the enforcement.”

Doing so will also create a better environment for the community, as well, she said.

“It’s a community effort. It’s all of us trying to work together,” Mayor Kip Walby said.
“The goal is to manage it.”

Downey told City Council that Landscape Services, the contractor whose Code V services have been hired by the city for code enforcement, is one of the best in pesticide and rodent control that her department deals with in the area.

Walby said he was somewhat gratified to hear that Downey’s office has been receiving more complaints and that it is not just St. Clair Shores that appears to have a growing problem.

But Downey said summer construction could bring more problems, especially the Michigan Department of Transportation’s plans for I-94.

“When they tear up that corridor,” she said, “we’re going to have more rats being displaced.”