Elmwood Park residents complain of rats in northside neighborhood
Tom Mahoney of Elmwood Park points to the bottom of his fence where rats have burrowed under to get in and out of his yard. He said April 3 he's seen rats run across his back yard. | David Pollard~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 5, 2012 1:35PM
Tom and Mary Mahoney enjoyed sitting on their back porch in the evening, but some unexpected guests have been ruining the moment.
“We love our back yard,” said Tom Mahoney. “We like sitting on the back porch, but I won’t sit there with rats running around.”
Mahoney, 58, who lives on 2900 block of 73rd Court, said in the past he’s seen rats run across his backyard and on several occasions has found rat feces under his porch. “This is the second time I’ve swept it up, on March 25 and the week before I did the same thing,” he said.
He’s not alone. At an April 2 Elmwood Park Village Board meeting he and his wife along with a half-dozen other residents complained about the rat problem in their neighborhood north of Diversey and west of Harlem.
Diane Marchetti, who lives on 2200 block of 73rd Court, told the board that a home on her block that has been empty for several months has now become infested with rats and raccoons. It’s affected the whole neighborhood.
Mary Mahoney blames the rat problem on neighbors who are not putting their garbage away properly.
“Are the owners getting a citation?” she asked the board.
Elmwood Park Village President Peter Silvestri said the village is looking into residents’ complaints. He said they contract with an outside agency that puts out poison to keep the rat population under control.
But, he said, Elmwood Park is not the only village with this kind of problem.
“You live in an urban area, you run the risk of having rats,” Silvestri said.
He said the village can’t control the problem by itself.
“It takes a lot of community involvement,” he said. “It takes one bad house to create an issue.”
Elmwood Park Village Manager John “Jay” Dalicandro said he is drafting an ordinance that will give the village the authority to enter a unoccupied homes where rats may be living. Currently, the village needs permission from the owner.
He said the village tickets property owners who do not keep their property clean.
In the meantime, he said, “the best we can do is treat the area.”
Dalicandro said the type of rat residents are seeing is called the “Norway Rat”
Norway Rats are husky, brownish in color and weigh about 11 ounces. They can grow to between 13 to 18 inches long, including the tail, which varies between 6 and 8 inches in length. These rats will eat nearly any type of food and will climb to find food or shelter. They can gain entrance into a building through any opening larger than a half-inch across, according to Illinois Department of Public Health’s “Rat Facts.”
These rats have litters of six to 12 and reach reproductive maturity in about three months. Breeding is most active in spring and fall and the average female has four to six litters per year. Rats can live up to 18 months, but most die before they are a year old.
Dalicandro said the village will treat the area but getting rid of the rats will not happen overnight.
“It takes a little while to get them under control,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dalicandro said, residents need to be proactive in making sure the rats don’t have a food supply. He said bird feeder, gardens, loose trash and even dog feces are feeding grounds for these rats.
“Don’t make them comfortable to live in that area and they won’t live there,” he said.
Still, residents don’t like the unwelcomed guests.
Gail Ciszewski, who lives on 2900 block of 73rd Court, said she’s seen a rat walk along her fence. She has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, but it’s only been in the last two years that the rats showed up.
“It’s been a surprise,” she said about the first time she saw one. “I was shocked. I had to look twice.”
Lorraine Szontagh, who lives on the 29000 block of 72nd Court, said the sooner the village gets a handle on the rats, the better. She’s lived in her home for five years and said the crawl space underneath their home has been an attractive area for the past three years.
“You can tell they’ve been here because the rocks (near the crawl space) are all shifted around,” she said.
Szontagh said they’ve caught two in the house and found a nest in the crawl space. She said they’ve used every trap imaginable to catch them and are currently using a steel trap.
She says the rats are resilient.
“One time I saw them sitting on the porch watching TV (through the glass door),” she said.
“I’m an animal lover, but these guys don’t belong in my house.”