Historically, wherever man has gone, rats soon followed. Some estimates today suggest
that there's as many rats as people throughout the United States. And rats have been
responsible for more human illnesses and death than any other group of mammals. They may
cause nearly a billion dollars in damage by gnawing food and other materials. And it's
believed the rodent can be blamed for up to 25 percent of fires of unknown origin. Ken
Schumacher is a senior public health sanitarian with the Monroe County Health Departement.
SCHUMACHER: Back in the 1970s the federal government started funding a program on rodent
control for major cities in the United States. Monroe County including the City of
Rochester was chosen as one of those sites. The program is still being maintained now
although the federal funding has stopped. We inspect storm sewers, we respond to rodent
compliants, we do surface baitings.. just to maintain the population.
Rat bites can create serious health problems, and together with mice, are responsible
for a number of diseases. However, there's never been a case of human rabies in this
country attributed to rodent exposure.
SCHUMACHER: The predominant rat in the Rochester area is the Norway Rat. The Brown Rat is
more or less in the southern portion of the US, whereas the Norway Rat is the common Rat
up here. They can become a pretty good size, getting up to 8 to 10 inches long with a tail
about the same, a pound maybe two pounds. They're quite fluffy. If you submerge them in
water you'd see, there's not much of a body weight to them, it's all skeleton.
Because of suitable accomodations for rats in both the city and the country, rodents
will never be eliminated, just controlled. More problems exist in the cities, specifically
in the northeast section of Rochester, in and around the Public Market and on Norton
SCHUMACHER: The rodent population is extremely popular in the storm sewers in the city,
the sanitary and the combined storm sanitary sewers. They find harborage and food in these
areas. And through the use of the storm sewers with the open grates to the streetways they
have a route to the surface for food, then go back in the sewers. They have a very
comfortable home in the sewer system of Rochester.
Ken says the County gets occasional complaints from the suburbs regarding rats making
their homes in compost piles. Generally, wherever there's garbage, there's a chance for
SCHUMACHER: It's not unusual to get complaints from restaurants using dumpsters. One of
the major things we do is work with the county and their health inspectors, inspecting.
We make sure that the refuge disposal areas, like dumpsters, are kept covered and in a
A commercial rat bait is now being tested in Rochester, to see if it gets better
results than the county-prepared brand. Both kinds feature an anti-coagulent. The
Rochester stuff contains waste grease to draw the animals in.
SCHUMACHER: The anti-coagulent is a one-shot deal. They don't die instantly. What happens
is the rodenicide actually breaks down the vitamin K in the blood, and the rats actually
bleed to death.
With a gestation period averaging 22 days.. and about four to seven litters each
year.. and about 20 babies each time, statistics show that ceasing rodent control programs
allow rat populations and problems to escalate. Ken Schumacher is a senior public health
sanitarian with the Monroe County Health Departement's Bureau of General Sanitation.
Bill Flynn, WXXI 1370.