WarrenAugust 28, 2012
Residents unite to fight rodents in north Warren neighborhood
By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer
WARREN — It’s high summer in a quintessential north Warren neighborhood, near Masonic and Schoenherr. Up and down streets lined with brick-ranch houses, residents are talking about rat sightings, trappings and killings.
One man reportedly claimed he caught 10 rats in a two-week span.
Jim Tipsword, who has lived on Murthum for 49 years, said he and a guy next door trapped four in mid-August. He said that included a beefy specimen that ran around his neighbor’s yard for an hour with a trap on its head before he went over and whacked it with a shovel, sending it into the great beyond.
“His was that big,” said Tipsword, 72, holding his hands 9 inches apart. “I said, ‘Holy Christ!’ I don’t know where the hell they’re coming from. I just hate these things.”
A few doors down on Murthum, resident Gary Clouse said he was surprised when he killed a rat with black Tomcat trap he bought at Lowe’s. He now has two bait boxes deployed in his yard.
“Oh, hell yeah. I didn’t expect that at all. I was really surprised,” said Clouse, 67, who moved to his home in Warren 30 years ago after living on Golden Gate, near Seven Mile and John R in Detroit, where he said he’d dealt with rats before. “I don’t know why it flared up all of a sudden.”
Martina Pardue said she and her husband have two small children and became concerned about rats in the yard of her home on Shawn. She eventually got in touch with a city contractor who deployed a bait box loaded with poison in the yard at 10 a.m. on Aug. 18. The family left for the day, returned at about 5:30 p.m. and found a sneaker-sized rat dead in the shadow of the box.
She said the thing was a foot long, and about 4 inches in diameter.
“My husband just went out to check and see, and there was a very large rat next to it,” said Pardue, 36. “I would say it was the size of a teacup Yorkie. I was just surprised that I saw it. I thought they were just supposed to go off and die, not die right there.”
Another neighbor saw Pardue’s dead rat and agreed that it was a biggie. But when an ominous hole appeared in Pardue’s vegetable garden, the neighbor, who had seen yet another rat that presumably made the hole, said the surviving beast of a varmint was even bigger than the one that dined and died at Pardue’s bait box.
Resident Tony Vettraino, 52, who lives on Shawn across the street from Pardue, admitted that he got a little irritated when he waited two weeks for a bait box after a county inspector came to his house on Aug. 8. He’d already caught three rats himself with trusty old wooden snap traps by that time.
He said he called and complained, and Warren Mayor Jim Fouts called him back.
Vettraino now has two black bait boxes in his yard, and he anxiously waited to see if other rodents were lurking by his patio, plants and garage.
“So far, so good,” Vettraino said somewhat skeptically. “I was horrified when I caught them. Horrified. We’ve been living here since I was 11 years old, and we’ve never seen, never had any problems with this kind of crap until just recently.”
Elva Diovardi said the rat activity on Shawn, Murthum and nearby Jenny piqued her interest when she began hearing the stories and then saw rats herself.
She later canvassed the neighborhood, and with the help of other neighbors, she gathered a list of 35 residents who’d encountered rodents.
Diovardi said she called Warren City Council member Kelly Colegio about the problem and handed her the list of names. Colegio later went to the neighborhood and walked door-to-door with District 4 City Council member Steven Warner.
“I’d like to see the city hire a contractor that specializes in rodents,” Colegio said last week. She said she spoke to officials in Sterling Heights and Roseville about door-to-door “sweeps” for rats in problem areas, and she would request that a similar program be instituted in Warren.
“I think the city is doing what we can, but I think we need help,” Colegio said. “Our property inspectors need help.”
Diovardi’s property was one of several in the neighborhood that received bait boxes. While some residents on her list still waited for action, she said, her neighbors would continue to take the necessary steps to deal with the problem — hopefully, with the continued help of the city.
The menace of rat activity on Shawn, Murthum and Jenny clearly left an impact on the neighborhood. Diovardi said she’d heard that a resident on nearby Colpaert, a retired city worker, recently caught a two-pounder.
“We, as a community, are on to this now. No one is feeding (animals) outside. Garbage is being picked up,” Diovardi said. “Twenty-two (rats) in a week and a half? That’s a problem.”
In late July, Fouts announced a citywide “attack on rats” in Warren.
Last week, the mayor said that he, too, had joined the list of residents who’d trapped or killed rats in their yard.
The mayor, who lives near 12 Mile and Dequindre, said he’d taken calls from residents all over the city concerned about the rat problem this summer.
He said he’d ordered an emergency appropriation of $150,000 to offset the cost of rat baiting services through a contractor for residents besieged by rodents.
Residents wishing to receive bait boxes must first have their properties inspected for rat activity and must sign a waiver upon delivery of the poison.
“I caught a rat in my neighborhood. It is all over the city. It is all over the county,” Fouts said. “It is not unique to one neighborhood.”
Fouts said a mild winter, a dry summer that decreased the supply of food in the sewers and sewer infrastructure construction projects all contributed to the influx of rodents in Warren and the region.
He pledged to help combat the spread of vermin with city resources as needed, and he urged residents to help eliminate potential food sources and shelter for rats.
Fouts said a continuation of his administration’s Clean Sweep program that targets neighborhood blight would soon focus on the area of northeast Warren.
To schedule an inspection or for more information about rat baiting services, call (586) 574-4662.
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