Oh rats! Ridgewood getting some help in its never-ending war against rodents

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Pests and rodents are a problem in almost every neighborhood, and Ridgewood is no different. But how can residents and property owners help keep the rat population from exploding?

Members from the city’s Department of Health (DOH) came to the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association’s (RPOCA) monthly meeting on Thursday night at the Ridgewood Older Adult Center to provide helpful tips and information on how to spot rat activity, get rid of any rats and prevention methods to keep rodents from coming back.

The first thing residents should do, according to Caroline Bragdon, director of neighborhood intervention for DOH, is to look for signs of rats. Because rats are nocturnal, residents won’t see much of the rodents during the day, but what they should be looking for are rat droppings, gnaw marks, runways and rat tracks, burrows in earthy areas, and rub marks — streaks rats leave behind on walls as a signal to other rats to follow their same path.

In order to get rid of rats, Bragdon says it is essential to remove at least two of their three main needs — water, food and shelter. Once they are removed the rats will leave to find new sources for their needs.

Here are the best ways to do that, according to the DOH:

  • Wash away any droppings and track marks since rats communicate through their urine and droppings;
  • Get rid of clutter which gives rats a place to hide, nest and reproduce;
  • Control weeds, shrubs and bushes where rats tend to prefer to burrow;
  • Manage garbage by keeping food in tightly sealed containers; and
  • Do not feed pigeons or stray cats, as any food left outside becomes rat food.

“Rats also will choose, they are very opportunistic, to go inside if given the opportunity to go inside,” Bragdon said. “As the weather gets colder, or if we have a kitchen where people are serving food or there is food being stored, rats find the opportunity to enter, they often will either to nest or to eat. And all they need is a hole the size of a quarter to enter.”

To prevent rats from entering buildings, DOH suggests sealing all holes and cracks in foundations, walls, floors, underneath doors and around windows that are larger than a half inch.

One major myth that Bragdon wanted to debunk was that mint-scented trash bags will deter rats from chewing through the bags.

“There are really no repellents that we know work. There is no scent that will scare away a rat or a mouse,” Bragdon said. “There are mint-scented garbage bags that are marketed as being repellent to rats. That’s a marketing gimmick that we don’t see anywhere in science that those actually work. They’re just bags that smell like mint.”

The best way to control not only rats but all types of pests, DOH says that pest control has to be active, ongoing and a community effort. If everyone works together, keeping rats and other pests out of Ridgewood should be a breeze.

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