October 28, 2021

Rat fight to take 5 weeks

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Dexter Park closed last week after rats were seen around playground equipment.

The rats that have taken up residence in Dexter Park in Cortland are slowly being poisoned, but it could take five weeks before they are eradicated, neighbors were told Tuesday.

That’s because they are very smart, cautious creatures that can be difficult to trap and they are constantly reproducing, said Mike Sweeney, owner of Sweeney’s Pest Elimination of Homer, speaking to about 40 neighbors at the Dexter Park pavilion.

The city hired him to eliminate the rats in the park, which migrated from a nearby home.

The park has been closed since Friday, but Youth Bureau Director John McNerney expected to make a decision this morning about whether to open limited portions of it, like the basketball courts.

City Code Enforcement Officer William Knickerbocker and Mayor Brian Tobin wouldn’t give details of the neighbor’s problem, but said 70 rats have been trapped and killed on that property. However, Tobin said that likely led the rats to seek refuge at the park.

So now the city is left with the problem of how to eliminate the rats and control their spread to other neighbors.

Neighbors like Nicole Thomas, whose Central Avenue property borders the park’s baseball field. She’s trapped four rats since May, three in the past two weeks.

“I’ve lived here 17 years and never ever had any, not one sign of one,” she said. But they’re here, they’re hungry and they’re in her garage. “They ate a whole bag of grass seed.”

Thomas’ husband has spent hours boarding up holes in the garage, and reinforcing the barricades with steel mesh and quarter-inch chicken wire.

Pomeroy Street resident Trisha Sherman asked Alderman Troy Beckwith (D-7th Ward) if the city could allocate funds to help residents fight the rats.

Beckwith and Tobin said they would have to explore the legal ramifications, but Sweeney said the city’s involvement could create the potential for lawsuits, if for example, a neighbor’s pet gets sick from poison provided by the city on another neighbor’s property.

In the meantime, Sweeney said his bait enclosures will work. Rats enter cages, eat the bait — a slowacting poison — leave and die. The poison wouldn’t kill animals that might eat the dead rat, he said.

It takes patience, Sweeney said, because the slow-acting poison means rats won’t associate the traps with the poison, but it works.

“If they see a rat in a trap, they freak out,” he said.

The first bait stations were set Friday on the park perimeter, he said, but rats are cautious, so it would take days before they take the bait.

That poisoned rats may soon be dying in their yards angered some residents, so Sweeney told the crowd he would pick up the dead rats free of charge.

Regina Comfort of Central Avenue has burrows in her backyard and would like the city to help residents who need it.

“It doesn’t matter where it started,” she said. “I want it ended.”

How to deter rats

• Mow your grass.
• Keep your trash in bags and cans. Holes may indicate a rodent problem.
• Don’t leave food out.
• Rats don’t like changes in their environment. Trim the hedges and remove the junk.

Source: Mayor Brian Tobin and Mike Sweeney

What to do

What should you do if you spot a rat dead or alive?
• Call the city code office at 607-753-1741.
• Sweeney’s Pest Elimination has offered to pick up dead rats found in the East End neighborhood free of charge. Call 607-749-8455.