Complaints of rodents to Washington, D.C.’s 311 city services helpline saw a 65 percent surge during the 2016 fiscal year to 3,200 complaints filed by D.C. residents from 2,300 in 2015, as students report an increase in rodent sightings at Georgetown.
Despite improvements in pest control in the central D.C. area, the Georgetown neighborhood continues to face rodent issues.
Orkin, a national pest extermination company, said overall the District is improving at addressing rat infestations compared to other cities. D.C. now ranks fifth in most rat-infested cities out of 50 cities. In 2016, the District was listed as the third-worst city in the Unitd States for rat problems, behind Chicago and New York.
Vice President for Planning and Facilities Management Robin Morey said Georgetown has improved its response to rodents on campus, with fewer service calls for pest control than last year.
“While urban environments and older structures in particular will always be vulnerable to pests we also strive for continuous improvement in our pest control effort,” Morey wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We are in the process of issuing new contract requirements with specific metrics to continue to improve performance with our pest control partners.”
Will Carlson (MSB ’19) said he commonly sees rats scurrying across the front lawn in the evening, and other students often exchange stories of run-ins with the pesky creatures.
A video of a rat tumbling to the ground from a shelf at Wisemiller’s Grocery and Deli, a sandwich and convenience shop popular with students located at 1236 36th St. NW was posted to Snapchat on Oct. 13 and was quickly shared among students.
Chris Olarte, an employee at Wisey’s, said that the staff has not yet found the rat from the video, nor do they know how it entered the shop in the first place.
“We’re doing everything we can to locate it. We looked around the restaurant and found no holes,” Olarte said.
University dining facilities has reported issues with rats as well. Sabrina Sadeghian (COL ’20) said she saw a rat at the recently renovated O’Donovan Hall.
“All of a sudden, my friend started screaming because she saw a rat running on a windowsill two tables away from us,” Sadeghian said. “I thought it was fine, and then it jumped onto a table one table away from us. I made a mad dash out of Leo’s and never looked back.”
Sabrina Pourteymour (SFS ’20) said rats have also found their way in and around Georgetown student townhomes, campus dorms and apartments. Pourteymour, who lives in the university’s Village A apartment complex, said she does not go a single night without seeing a rat.
“They’re everywhere,” Pourteymour said “I was sitting outside my apartment on Friday night. In the space of eight minutes, I saw four rats running outside of the apartment, outside C Block, running towards [the Former Jesuit Residence]. Every time I’m outside at night, they’re everywhere.”
Hardin Council (COL ’20), who lives in LXR Hall, saw one inside of his room.
“I opened the door and turned the lights on, and there it was: a rat rummaging in the trash,” Council said. “Right when it saw me, it ran away, and then I was terrified for the next few weeks. Luckily, it hasn’t appeared since, but it still makes me nervous.”
The growing number of rats happens to coincide with a growing number of D.C. bar and restaurant openings, establishments that contribute to trash in the city. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, in 2016, D.C. was home to 2,267 bars and restaurants — a 30 percent jump from 1,729 in 2006.
The District government has begun to place trash compactors in areas deemed “rat hot spots.” These trash compactors decrease the overflow and spillage of garbage onto the streets in hopes that rats will move away from the area.
The Humane Rescue Alliance, a pro-animal adoption group, has partnered with D.C.-area businesses, giving them feral cats at risk of being euthanized to act as pest control by hunting down the rat population on D.C. streets.
But District officials are still struggling to address the city’s widespread rat problem.
According to Gerard Brown, program manager of the Rodent and Vector Control Division of the District’s Department of Health, D.C.’s warm winter weather is the largest contributor to the overall growth in the rat population.
Harsher, colder winters freeze rats to death, whereas warm winters help foster rat population growth.
D.C.’s growing human population also contributes to the increase in the rodent population. The District’s population is at a four-decade high at 681,170 residents, with over 10,000 residents moving into the District in the last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
With more residents come more food waste and trash, both of which feed the rat population when not properly managed.
D.C. exterminators have turned to asphyxiating rats with carbon dioxide by slipping dry ice into rat burrows to kill them while they sleep.
Pourteymour’s advice for students regarding rats is simple.
“You just have to watch where you’re walking,” Pourteymour said.
This post has been updated with comment from Vice President for Planning and Facilities Management Robin Morey.