Complaints about rats are only getting worse in Hamilton

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Rat complaints in the city are trending upward and there’s no end in sight.

In 2014, there was a significant increase in rat complaints compared to previous years, according to a new public healthreport.

The amount has more than doubled from the same time last year, with 20 complaints this April compared to seven in April 2014.

The way to tackle this is a proactive response, said Robert Hall, director of health protection at a city hall meeting on Monday.

“You can’t tackle this on a one-on-one basis. This has to be a community effort,” he said.

“It probably will continue trending upwards for a while, but if we start putting in place more proactive communication … hopefully over the next couple of years we’ll see that trend start to decline.”

The number of rat complaints have not only increased, but spread to different areas of the city.

From 2012 to ’14, the number of rat complaints has migrated up the Mountain.

“I can’t tell you if there are more rats on the Mountain than there were before. I think we’re getting more calls, which means that people are more aware,” said Hall.

The report cited climate change and development as two potential reasons for the climbing numbers.

Hall added the increasing availability of food as a culprit.

Councillor Maria Pearson of Ward 10 said she’s received complaints about people feeding stray cats, a food source that could attract rats.

“The public needs to know you shouldn’t be doing this,” she said, also noting that large numbers of bird feeders don’t help the situation.

“People want to do what they think is the right thing but, in the end, sometimes that right thing causes other problems,” said Hall.

Councillor Tom Jackson questioned if there was something different about Hamilton (compared to other cities) that would explain the rise in complaints.

“We are no different than any other large urban centre,” said Hall.

The recommendations proposed at Monday’s meeting include an increase in rat control resources for homeowners and continuation of efforts to respond to complaints.

One of those efforts is called sewer baiting.

“When we start doing an investigation, we’ll contact public works and tell them we’ve had rats in the area and would like it sewer baited,” Hall said.

Licensed contractors would then go in and distribute the bait in the sewers.

In 2014, the city baited more than double the number of sewers than previous years, at $75 per manhole.