Baltimore County, city to tackle rats in St. Helena
Wednesday, 13 February 2013 11:48

County did not treat St. Helena during last year

by Ben Boehl

    The St. Helena community has rats, and Baltimore County and City are joining forces to eradicate the rodents beginning of the week of Feb. 25.
    The bulk of the county rat treatment program does not usually start until the spring and summer months when the rat population is at its height, but Mary Wischhusen of the St. Helena Neighborhood Association said the treatment is needed now.
    “Oh yeah, I can sit on my front porch and watch [the rats] run back and forth,” Wischhusen said. “I see them cut across my yard.”
     St. Helena was not among the communities that received a visit from rat eradicators in 2012.
    Dundalk communities treated for rats last year included West Inverness, Stanbrook, Eastfield, Berkshire, Colgate, Eastwood, Sollers Point, Gray Manor, Logan Village, Westfield, Bear Creek, North Point Village,  Charlesmont, Turner Station, Norwood/Holabird and Old Dundalk.
    Wischhusen said the skipping of St. Helena last year allowed the rats to spread throughout the community all year long and not just during the summer months.

She was hoping to have the rat problem treated this past December but is happy the rat eradicators are on the way.
    “I’m glad the county decided to get on it,” Wischhusen said. “We have been asking for it since the day it started.”
    St. Helena Community Association president and Baltimore City resident Shirley Gregory said even though St. Helena is divided between Baltimore county and city, the rats can be found in both jurisdictions. She shared her own struggles with rats.
    “Last year we took our deck out because the rats were living under it, and we decided to put in brick pavers in its place so the rats would not have a hiding place,” Gregory said.    
    “To our surprise, they started to dig in my neighbor’s yard and under our pavers, which ended up collapsing. 
    “We then had to go in the neighbors’ yards and lay concrete to prevent this from happening again.”
    Gregory is glad that Baltimore County and the city will conduct treatments at the same time so the county’s treatment won’t “flush” the rats to the city side.
    Baltimore City Councilman Jim Kraft confirmed that the city will begin treatment around the same time as the county.
    “Well, it’s not just so that they won’t ‘flush the rats to the city side.’  It’s to coordinate our efforts and attack the problem simultaneously,” Kraft wrote in an e-mail.
    “I am relatively certain that the rats have not learned how to identify the city-county boundary, but who knows?” Kraft wrote.
    Both Wischhusen and Gregory said that buying poison and receiving treatment from the local governments can only do so much, but the key to keeping the rats out of the community is to take care of their trash and yards.
    “I look at it this way, we don’t have a rat problem, we have a people problem,” Wischhusen said referring to trash cans without lids and the debris in the alley.
    “Rats are the most relentless creatures I have ever seen, and some people do not even realize they are feeding them,” Gregory said. “Some people put bread out for birds not thinking that the rats will be eating it.”
    Lionel Van Dommelen, chief of code enforcement for Baltimore County, agrees that taking care of trash, cleaning up dog feces and not leaving food out is a more effective method than treatment.
    “If there was no treatment done and we had no trash (problem), the rats would go away,” Van Dommelen said.
    According to the Baltimore County website, residents can refuse treatment, but if a home has been identified as a source of rats the homeowners who opt out must get treatment from another exterminator at their own expense.
    The county said it usually takes a few days to a week for the treatment to kill the rats.
    Pet owners are advised to keep pets indoors for about 10 days and to monitor the pets when they need to be outside during those 10 days.
    If a dead rat is found, the county asks residents to spray it with a disinfectant mixture of 1⁄4 cup bleach and 2 cups of hot water.
    For disposal, the county recommends wearing gloves and not touching the rodent corpse with bare hands.
    Next, use a shovel to place the dead rat into a sealable plastic bag and then place that bag into another sealable bag before placing it into a trash bag.
    Then wash the gloves and shovel with bleach and hot water.