September 12, 2012 - No one's saying there's an infestation or anything like that, but rats are being sighted in the Village of Oxford and Ordinance Officer Dan Durham would like the public's help to find out where they are, what's bringing them here and stop them from spreading.
"If they believe they have a rat issue, they can call here and I will go take a look," he said. "I know what to look for."
Durham, who's duties for the village include pest control, explained that he's received complaints from residents living in the area of Dayton and Maple streets who claimed they were seeing rats.
"I was over there the other day," he said. "When I got out of the car, one ran across my feet. So, there are some in the area. Now, how many? I don't think many – possibly one colony. They're probably all in one spot."
Durham's been trying to "find the source" of the rats.
"I've not yet been able to root them out," he said. "I don't know what brought them into the area."
Durham stressed he does not believe the village is suffering from an infestation, so there's no need for alarm.
"I don't see it as a large-scale problem," he said. "I don't want a hundred panicked people at the (village) council meeting thinking that the Pied Piper needs to be hired."
That residential area isn't the only place where rats were sighted in the village.
According to Don Brantley, superintendent of the Department of Public Works (DPW), a business owner in downtown's southeast quadrant twice reported seeing rats there over the summer.
As a result, the DPW spread rat poison where the sighting occurred and around the quadrant's dumpsters.
"We did two applications – one in late June and one in mid July," Brantley said. "I have not had another complaint since then."
Brantley noted, "I have not personally seen a rat. I'm just going on what other people have said."
Geoff Savage, owner of Oxford Home Garden & Pet on N. Washington St., has also been hearing rat complaints from customers.
"We're selling a lot of rat poison," he said.
In addition to sightings in the Maple/Dayton area, Savage has a neighbor on Dennison St. who complained of having a rat in his garage.
"I haven't seen any at my place," Savage noted. "One person's rat may be another person's chipmunk. I don't know."
Rats aren't typically seen or complained of in the village.
"This is the first time we've ever had to deal with them that I can remember," said Brantley, who's worked for the DPW for nearly 24 years. "You see mice and chipmunks, stuff like that.
"In the four years that I've been with the village, this is the first time I've ever heard of it," Durham said.
The same cannot be said of southern Oakland County where eight communities are dealing with increased rat populations and complaints.
Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak, Madison Heights, Berkley, Huntington Woods, Oak Park, Ferndale and Hazel Park recently applied for a $150,000 grant from the state to eradicate their rats and educate the public about how to prevent them.
In order to prevent Oxford Village from having large-scale problem like these communities, Brantley and Durham had some advice for both business owners and residents.
"They need to keep their trash picked up, especially with any type of food," Brantley said.
The DPW superintendent noted, "We try to keep our (downtown) dumpster enclosures as clean as possible. They're not spotless, but we try to keep any garbage and spills (off the ground), especially around the restaurants. We pick up what we can just to try to avoid any issues."
"My feeling is where you have garbage in large amounts, you're going to get the occasional rodent. It just happens," Durham said.
Durham recommended that people keep their dog food and cat food inside their homes. However, if they must store it outside, please do so in galvanized metal containers.
To folks who like to feed the birds, Durham advises them to not leave more food out "than they can eat in a one-day period."
The ordinance officer noted how there were two people in the Maple/Dayton area who were illegally raising chickens and that may have contributed to the rat sightings.
"When you have chickens, you have chicken feed and chicken waste," he explained. "They're not real efficient processors, so there's rat feed in the chicken waste."
Rats usually try to live close to a food source.
"They don't just decide to live some place," Durham said. "They want to go as short a distance to feed as they can."
The chickens were removed from the area because possessing them is a violation of the village's ordinance prohibiting residents from keeping any livestock on their property.
As far as getting rid of rats, Durham recommends using snap traps with peanut butter as bait.
"Poisoned rats don't always die," he said. "Sometimes they'll wander off some place and then if somebody's dog eats them, you can spread the problem inadvertently."
Any Oxford Village residents or business owners who spot a rat or have physical signs of a rat presence, such as holes, are encouraged to call Durham at (248) 628-2543.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.