City revives anti-rat working group to fight infestations

Ottawa's Rat Mitigation Working Group reformed this month to coordinate the city's battle against the rodents. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters - image credit)
Ottawa's Rat Mitigation Working Group reformed this month to coordinate the city's battle against the rodents. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters - image credit)

The City of Ottawa has revived an anti-rat working group to coordinate its struggle against the pesky rodents.

The move comes as councillors field complaints of rat infestations across the city, with one warning that an "inadequate" response is leaving residents to fend for themselves.

"Residents were basically told, 'Hey, if you have a rat problem, you have to solve it on your own,'" said River ward Coun. Riley Brockington. He said 2022 saw a spike in rat issues in some neighbourhoods of his ward.

"I don't think we're winning this battle," he lamented.

Brockington wrote to city administration in April that many residents in the Central Park neighbourhood near Merivale Road and Baseline Road were "overwhelmed" by a rat infestation last year. Carlington is also seeing "large volumes of rats," according to Brockington.

In a request to staff, Brockington said residents want to see the city step up efforts to stop the rats population from growing and moving between neighbourhoods.

Public outreach on how residents can help address the problem and city monitoring of property standards are also part of the request.

Rats along light rail construction

Further east, Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney warned that rat infestations have increased along the entire length of the light rail extension.

"As this has become a persistent situation which will not resolve itself, has the city communicated any information to residents, and what are the steps, going forward, to rid this public nuisance, and/or provide assistance to those affected?" he asked in a May request.

In response to those concerns, city staff submitted reports to an upcoming health board meeting detailing current measures to combat rats. Besides public education, the city focuses on inspections, park maintenance and baiting programs on its own property when appropriate.

But staff told the councillors that they've committed to do more, and have re-established an internal Rat Mitigation Working Group bringing together representatives of seven different city departments and agencies.

The working group began its efforts in 2018, according to a city statement to CBC, but its meetings were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It resumed its work this month.

Sewer-baiting ineffective

Brockington, whose ward includes the Central Experimental Farm, had asked staff whether Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is currently doing anything to combat rats on the outskirts of its property.

Staff said its working group will liaise with the federal ministry to find out.

The report also pointed to the limitations of the city's anti-rat efforts so far. Though the department of infrastructure and water services has done sewer baiting when rats are detected in sewers, they've found it largely ineffective.

Brockington said he appreciates the decision to restart the working group, though he's dissatisfied with efforts to combat rats so far.

"There really isn't an established plan in place from the City of Ottawa to deal with rats," he told CBC.

He called for a multipronged approach that combines "boots on the ground" to enforce property standards and measures to support residents as they grapple with rats on their own properties.

"At the end of the day, no one wants to see rats in their neighbourhood," Brockington said.

Got a problem with rats? Reach out to CBC's Arthur White-Crummey here.