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Rats sightings in West Allis rapidly crawling upward

Officials advise to clean up potential food sources

West Allis is dealing with increased calls about rats.

West Allis is dealing with increased calls about rats. Photo By Getty Images/iStockphoto

April 8, 2014

West Allis — With statistics scanty except for the last three years, the number of rat complaints phoned into the West Allis Health Department has skyrocketed for the eastern part of the city and are now rising for western areas.

Environmentalist Laura Temke who covers West Allis from 68th Street to the eastern city limits for the Health Department said that in 2009 and 2010 when she started with the department there were only one or two calls about rat sightings here and there.

Last year, the count was 127 calls.

Temke even has a video of half a dozen rats eating spilled seeds underneath a bird feeder.

But not all those calls about rate sightings are real rat sightings, she said. Sometimes people call about rats because they've seen gnaw marks on garbage receptacles but the marks could have come from squirrels or other animals, she said.

Constant calls

Calls are also coming in faster to Health Department environmentalist Dan Koralewski whose territory is 68th to 92nd streets.

Whereas before he would get one or two calls in a year, "Now we get at least one call a week, if not more," he said.

And last summer he got complaints from about 68th and Beloit up to 72nd, "where I never really had complaints before," Koralewski said.

The increases have led to the city cracking down on people who inadvertently provide food to rodents by not having lids on their trash cans or who put their recyclables out early so the plastic bags are more susceptible to being ripped open by rodents hunting for poorly rinsed food containers.

Hefty fines

If the crackdown with its hefty fines doesn't work, mandatory purchase of city trash cans could be ordered.

Normally, taking the food source is an effective strategy, Temke said.

"Almost always if you take away the food source, the rats go away," she said. And nearly everyone takes the proper steps when she tells them what needs to be done.

"Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time people comply and most of the time it never happens again," she said.

AT A GLANCE

The West Allis Health Department has compiled a list of things that attract rodents:

· Garbage and recycling items not in approved containers or lying on the ground.

· Garbage and recycling containers without lids or that have holes in them allowing rodent access.

· Insufficient garbage containers resulting in overflowed containers that do not close and cause garbage to fall on the ground.

· Uncontained garbage/recycling placed outside too many hours or days before pickups

· Brush, junk or other debris in the yard

· Dog feces accumulating in yards

· Bird feeders and bird food on the ground that isn't swept once a day

· Feeding wild animals, which is illegal in West Allis except for feeding birds

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