By Sandi Latimer
The Columbus Health Department is targeting the Hilltop for its rat control program this spring.
Health department spokesman Scott Whittaker told the Greater Hilltop Area Commission at its Feb. 2 meeting that the aim of the program is to determine if there is a problem, what is causing it, and how to get rid of it. He explained that the rat control project began in 2012 in Clintonville and has spread to different neighborhoods, with success.
“We are opening the program on the Hilltop,” he said, “and we’re taking complaints from residents to see if there is a problem.”
If a problem does exist, the health department will notify residents within 150 feet of the suspected problem, encouraging them to work to eradicate the problem. Whittaker said problem areas are usually around restaurants and Dumpsters.
“This is a great public service,” he said, adding that “we’re here to help people.”
“We’re not out to get people,” he said. “We want people to work with us.”
He said the department will also work with residents about bird feeding and composting so they do it properly and don’t draw rats.
If residents believe they have a rat problem, they can call the Columbus Health Department at 614-645-6153 or the city’s call center at 311 or 614-645-3111.
Commission member Keith Chaldis said the big problem in the Highland West area is the overflowing trash receptacles.
“We have those 300 gallon trash cans in the alleys and people try to throw their trash in there even when they are full,” he said. “They can’t go to the next one that is empty. We’ve got trash littered in the alleys and it attracts rodents.”
“The health department works with other departments and one of them is refuse,” Whittaker said. “We’re reporting the overflowing trash receptacles all the time.”
Sharry Carey, a commission member who is an advocate for spaying and neutering cats, wanted to know if rats that had ingested poison would harm cats and birds of prey.
Whittaker said the poison is pumped into the rats’ burrows and the rats would have to ingest poison for five to seven days before they’d get enough to be of danger.
“The rats will die in their burrows,” he said.
In response to a question from commission member Greg Large about how the health department would get information about the program to residents, Whittaker said his appearance at the meeting was the first step.
“We use Facebook and we’re open to suggestions from the commission on how you contact residents,” he said.