A full trash can may just be a container of garbage to you, but to a rat, it’s a lunch buffet.

“Garbage containers are a haven for rats,” City Manager Luke Stowe told a 1st Ward meeting recently.

And there has been “an uptick in calls,” he added.

So, Stowe said the city is going to hire an additional temporary employee, to put out bait boxes that poison the rats.

Bait box in the alley between Ashland and Wesley.

He also said the city may readjust when downtown garbage cans are picked up/emptied, so they don’t sit full of rat-attracting food scraps all night.

Stowe also said the city may consider different types of trash receptacles besides the open-topped ones that are easier for rats to navigate.

The new executive director of the Downtown Evanston marketing group, Andy Vick, said that rats are a “vexing problem.”

Vick said Downtown Evanston is “working with our landscape contractors to put down rat mesh,” to prevent the rodents from burrowing into the planters that help beautify downtown sidewalks.

Planters are attractive to the human eye but also to the rat in search of a home.

Earlier this summer, the city’s health department manager, Greg Olsen, said Evanston received about 850-900 rat-related calls to 3-1-1 (that’s calls about rats, not from rats).

The department will respond to complaints, and put down some of the city’s 250-300 bait boxes.

There can be a $50-500 fine for anyone who create potential rat cafeterias by failing to keep the area clean of garbage or other rat magnets such as used mattresses.

Rats are a perpetual problem in just about every city, but Evanston may have an additional disadvantage.

City Manager Stowe noted that Evanston borders on Chicago, which “for eight years in a row has been voted the ‘Rattiest City in the Country.'”

Somebody has to rat those little guys out.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Leave a comment

The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.