Rats continue to alarm D.C. residents, but reported sightings down since 2008

Steven Nelson | Associate Editor

Everyone knows Washington, D.C. is home to a large population of “rats.” But so far, the city’s pest-control authorities have only received reports about the furry rodent variety.

Gerard Brown, Program Manager of the city’s Bureau of Community Hygiene Rodent and Vector Control Division, discussed the district’s struggles with vermin in an interview with The Daily Caller.

Brown adheres to a “one rat is too many” philosophy.

One of the more horrific discoveries reported to his division occurred after a resident shuffled into their bathroom, only to come face-to-face with a rat swimming in the toilet.

More commonly, rats are seen scampering down alleyways, sitting on cars and feasting in areas where food is left in the open.

After a rat sighting is reported to the D.C. government, via the city’s 311 hotline, investigators are dispatched. Rat poison is utilized if necessary.

Figures provided by Brown indicate that the rat population crested in 2008, appropriately coinciding with the Chinese calendar’s Year of the Rat, with 3,518 sightings.

Since 2008, the number of sightings declined sharply to only 2,659 reports in 2009, before rebounding to 3,299 sightings in 2010.

So far this year, there have been 2,131 sightings reported to the city.

According to a 2008 report by the Washington Post, 3,417 rat sighting were reported in 2007, 3,138 in 2006 and 3,184 in 2005. The year coming closest to 2008’s figure was 2004, with 3,501 sightings.

Nine city employees are currently working to curtail rat infestations. Officials are interviewing for an opening on the staff, Brown added.

Attacks perpetrated by the large rodents are uncommon. There have been no recent reports of bites, Brown said, and the animals only behave violently when “backed into a corner.”

The city doesn’t deal with rats spotted on federal property. Congress has “their own in-house pest control,” Brown noted.

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