Brown rats are common health nuisances in D.C. (Courtesy photo)
Brown rats are common health nuisances in D.C. (Courtesy photo)

The D.C. Department of Health held a workshop to educate residents and business owners on how to deal with the ongoing problem of rodents, especially mice and rats, in the District. 

The District of Columbia 2-Day Rodent Control Academy took place at the George Washington University in Northwest on July 20-21. Dr. LaQuandra S. Nesbitt, the outgoing director of the health department, said the workshop couldn’t have come at a better time.

“The District is recovering from COVID and a lot of new development is going up in the city,” Nesbitt said to a group of 50 people. 

“Residents are attending festivals throughout the city and they are visiting restaurants and historic buildings. Rodents are feeding off of the trash that is being generated. From 2018 to now, we have had a 100% jump in complaints from residents and business owners about rodents. They are appearing in our neighborhoods and commercial corridors,” she said. 

Dr. Bobby Corrigan, an urban rodentologist based in New York, served as the primary speaker for the workshop. Studying rodents for decades, Corrigan said rats in the District have special qualities and live under challenging circumstances.

“The most common rat in D.C. is the brown rat,” Corrigan said. “The brown rat came here by way of ships from the Mongolian region from 1745-1755. I estimate there are three million rats and mice in the city.”

Corrigan said 90% of all rats in the city are brown rats while the remaining 10% are of the black species. He noted the average life of a rat in D.C. consists of seven to nine months whereas a normal rat in the U.S. would have a lifespan of two to three years. 

“The D.C. rat’s life cycle is shorter because the lifestyle and the pace here is treacherous and there is usually something that happens that takes them out,” he said.

Corrigan said a myth exists that rats and mice flourish where poverty exists.

“Rats are not always around filth and squalor,” he said. “You will find them in high end commercial buildings also. I know of many instances where there are skyscrapers that go many stories up in the sky and you will find mice and rats there.”

Corrigan said cats and dogs have proven not to be the best deterrents to rats and mice adding that good sanitation practices work best.

Sanitation is rodent control,” Corrigan said. “No food equals no rats. You have a responsibility to your community to keep your business and your home as free as possible from rodents. Rats carry viruses and bacteria while mice tend to carry pathogens. Sometimes, the best way to fight rats is not through an exterminator but a new garbage can.”

Corrigan said trash cans should be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis so they won’t be attractive to rodents and residents shouldn’t let their gutters fill with water. He said baits and traps work best in tandem with efforts to remove food from their environment.

“Rats get into buildings and homes through burrowing,” Corrigan said. “You can find their droppings around trash cans. Rats have a system to tell other rats that this is good feeding ground. That is why it is important for people to clean their garbage can.”

Corrigan said rats and mice have been living on Earth for millions of years compared to humans’ hundreds of thousands time span.

“We can never get rid of them but we can control them a lot better,” he said.

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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