City to track rat population with cameras in sewers

Taking advantage of winter warm-ups? Well, so are rodents

Ottawa's normally shy sewer rats are about to get their close-up, whether they're ready for it or not.

Beginning in 2018, the city will place closed-circuit television cameras in sanitary sewers to monitor them for rat activity and try to get a grip on the rodents' numbers.

The two-year pilot project comes in response to inquiries from Couns. Mathieu Fleury and Allan Hubley, who asked whether the rat population has blossomed since the city stopped using pesticides.

Currently three departments collaborate to deal with complaints from residents about rats, setting poison bait to kill the rodents. Now they'll be able to target problem areas identified by the cameras.

Bylaw services, which investigates property standards complaints, received 171 complaints about rats and rodents in last year. Public works responded to 159 calls concerning rats in and around sewers, as well as one complaint about rats in a park. 

Ottawa Public Health investigated five complaints about rats in 2016.

In April a rodent infestation forced the evacuation of Fire Station 37 in Riverside South. 

As many as 30 rats had made their way into the walls of the station, according to Victor Dillabaugh, a health and safety representative from the Ottawa Professional Firefighters Association..