- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 24, 2004

Rodent complaints in the metropolitan area have surged in the past month, with Montgomery and Arlington counties setting new monthly records, officials said this week.

“This year, it’s really spiked,” said Richard Helfrich, acting deputy health officer for Montgomery County. “The number has really jumped.”

Montgomery County officials have received 290 rodent complaints this month, shattering the monthly record of 225 set in July 2002. By comparison, county officials received 60 rodent complaints last June.

Arlington County has received 116 rodent complaints this month, and it expects to receive a record 200 by the end of the month, said Aftab Hussain, supervisor of the Health Department’s Vector Control division.

“This is much, much more than last year,” Mr. Hussain said, noting that the county received 56 rodent complaints last June.

Alexandria expects to receive 35 to 40 complaints by the end of the month, said Ed Turner, a code enforcement officer for the city. Its monthly average is 10 to 15.

“There’s no use trying to find out why we have more rats in the sewers,” Mr. Turner said, adding that the city spends $168,000 a year to place rodent traps. “We devote our resources to eradicating them.”

Fairfax County has registered 97 rodent complaints this month and logged 72 last June, said Dennis Hill, director of the county’s Environmental Health Division.

“Virtually every month over the last year has had an increase in the number of complaints,” Mr. Hill said.

In the District, rodent complaints have increased in the past month, said Vera Jackson, spokeswoman for the D.C. Health Department. She did not provide specific numbers.

Prince George’s County has not had an increase in rodent complaints in the past month, said Cynthia Barry, an official in the county’s Department of Environmental Resources.

Montgomery County health officials responded to the increase in complaints June 1 by switching the county’s two rodent investigators from part-time to full-time, Mr. Helfrich said. They will continue to work full-time until the number of complaints decreases.

“Thank goodness I haven’t seen rodents, or I’d be leaving my job,” said Rockville resident Elan Sheintal, 23, who services swimming pools.

Mr. Sheintal, who spends most of his time outside, said he has not noticed an increase in the past several weeks.

“The rat explosion hasn’t gotten to the point of being a problem,” said Reid McKee, an administrator in Montgomery County’s Department of Health and Human Services. “You never know if they’re seeing more or if there actually are more rats.”

Mr. McKee said the rodents’ rates of reproduction will lower when their food sources are depleted.

Birdseed, animal feces and trash are three main food sources for rodents that can be eliminated, said Todd Phillips, a manager at Capitol Termite & Pest Control Co. in Bethesda.

Mr. Phillips said the number of rodent complaints has been “pretty high” in the past several weeks, especially in business areas with restaurants and high levels of foot traffic.

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