After Belmont health leaders have seen an uptick in rat sighting complaints this year, officials are urging locals to rodent-proof their homes and outdoor property.
Starting this spring, the Belmont Health Department has received multiple calls per week from residents reporting rat sightings -- which is more reported sightings than health officials normally get, said Stefan Russakow, Belmont's health director.
Russakow said although rat sightings tend to fluctuate year to year, this season's heightened rodent activity might have to do with various demolition and construction projects, which tend to displace rats and mice from long-neglected properties and encourage them to scatter elsewhere.
"When there is construction in town and the environment is disturbed, such as taking down a building or grass getting trimmed down, they want to go to a nice quiet place," Russakow said.
The problem is exacerbated when residents fail to use trash cans with tight-fitting lids, or let their landscaping grow wild, Russakow said.
"We're more concerned with the fact that people are making their own environment more attractive," he said, noting that the problems come together to create a rodent problem. "It's not just the construction or the trash or a messy backyard. Itís everything combined."
While the problem has proved to be town-wide, Russakow said the most reports come from densely-populated areas, such as the Trapelo Road/Belmont Street corridor.
"We've been seeing them out that way, but there generally hasn't been one worse area than others," he said.
Russakow recommended using sturdy trash bins, keeping yards neat and free of piles and weeds, avoiding feeding pets outside, and working together with neighbors to keep rodents off outside property.
Officials also recommend plugging any holes to residents' homes that might allow mice or rats to get inside, especially in basements and garage doors.
If all the recommended prevention measures still don't stamp out the rodent problem, residents are encouraged to call an exterminator.
For more information or to obtain a list of licensed pest control companies, call the Belmont Health Department at 617-993-2720 or visit Belmont's official website.
Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org