Ottawa

Rat complaint numbers 'nominal,' says city staff

Complaints about rats and other rodents make up only a "nominal" percentage of service requests in Ottawa, and tracking and managing their population would be a complex and potentially expensive endeavour, according to city staff.

City departments dealt with 335 rat and rodent-related complaints in 2016

As many as 30 rats made their way into the walls of fire station 37 on Earl Armstrong Road in April — three months after two councillors asked city staff whether Ottawa was seeing an increase in rat-related problems. (CBC)

Complaints about rats and other rodents make up only a "nominal" percentage of service requests in Ottawa, and tracking and managing their population would be a complex and potentially expensive endeavour, according to city staff.

The staff note on Ottawa's rat population, posted online ahead of next week's community and protective services committee meeting, came in response to an inquiry from councillors Mathieu Fleury and Allan Hubley back in January.

After hearing more and more about rats spotted in public parks and city streets, Fleury and Hubley wanted to know if the city has seen an increase in rats running rampant since it stopped using pesticides.

Though the response didn't directly address whether or not there has been an increase, staff said complaints about rats make up a small percentage of complaints.

335 complaints in 2016

Three departments work collaboratively to deal with the complaints, staff said.

Ottawa Public Health generally works to educate and raise awareness of the potential dangers of rodent infestations and investigated five complaints in 2016.

Bylaw services investigates property standards complaints and received 171 inquiries related to rats and rodents, less than two per cent of property-standards-related service requests.

A sign posted to fire station 37 after it was closed due to a rat infestation. Firefighters later said there was no public safety hazard. (CBC)

And public works responds to requests related to rats in sewers or in public spaces like parks. While the water services branch of public works responded to 159 requests in 2016 for baiting services near sewers, said staff, there was just one request related to a park.

Staff also looked at what other cities, such as Windsor, Ont., have done to manage or track the rodent population. They cited a Vancouver study and concluded that, well, rats are unpredictable — and that the levels of infestation from block to block is difficult to track.

"A longer-term comprehensive strategy for determining baseline population and the potential implementation of appropriate control measures would be an interdepartmental effort, requiring more dedicated resources and the identification of an according funding source through the annual budget process," staff wrote.

Fire station evacuated in April

Fleury and Hubley's inquiry came a few months before an April incident in which a rodent infestation forced fire crews from station 37 in Riverside South to be reassigned to other stations.

As many as 30 rats had been counted and had made their way into the walls of the station, according to Victor Dillabaugh, a health and safety representative from the Ottawa Professional Firefighters Association.

The building was evacuated and an exterminator called, and when firefighters returned a few days later, they said the infestiation was not a public safety issue and that the area at large was not affected.

now