|Rats have suddenly invaded quiet neighborhoods in LaSalle and
residents in numbers have had to resort to setting traps.
Niagara Falls - Thanks to Councilman Robert Anderson, who established a "rat hotline" for people living in the LaSalle neighborhood, the Niagara Falls Reporter got the opportunity to speak directly and subsequently visit residents living with what they claim is the scourge of rats.
Last week, this writer visited the homes of more than a dozen residents living near Buffalo Ave., along numbered streets starting at 79th St. and going to 82nd St.
The purpose of going to the homes in person was to try to discover if the problem was as bad as people made it out to be on the phone.
I went first to the 81st St. home of Joseph Farella who had called the hotline.
Joe came out of his home to meet me.
Reporter: How long have you lived here?
Joe: For 25 years and I never, ever had a problem with rats until this past winter.
R: How is it now?
Joe: It's bad. One day, I inadvertently did not close my door tight and I ended up with one in the house and it took me almost a month to get rid of him. He made a home in a box spring.
R: Are other neighbors having a problem also?
Joe called at his neighbors. Soon a man and woman came outside and joined us.
The woman, Mary: These are not little, they are huge.
Her husband, Mike: Almost as big as a squirrel.
Mary: We put poison in the basement. I saw one, laying flat, belly up. Then we had one in the house.
R: Do you have traps?
Mike: I have three bait boxes. The traps have poison. But one of the problems we found is that it has to be a community effort. We are paying for this on our own. Rats will eat dog feces. So, if you have a dog, you have to pick it up and put it in a container. Unfortunately, we have people who have dogs who don't do that.
These three neighbors showed me spots in the fence where rats had, they said, dug holes underground so they could get between theirs and the neighbor's yard.
Joe: I have four traps and one is bolted to a concrete block and that one is put there by Orkin, the exterminators. I think we have 10 bait boxes total in these two houses and we are baiting them all the time.
R: Are these sewer rats?
Joe: Yes. I've had small ones, too. But the one I had in the house, I was sitting there doing some paper work and it came walking right out and the fact that I was there made absolutely no difference. It was like a small cat and it walked with a humped back.
Mary: (pointing to a house nearby) What worries me is the woman who lives there is expecting. She is going to have a baby in November. If those rats get in the house and they smell baby formula, it's like desert for them.
R: What do you think is the cause of the rats?
Joe: When the city did Buffalo Ave. (road reconstruction) where the (industrial) plants are - around 56th - once they did that work, we started to have problems. Because of the rat problem at Covanta on 56th St, the city contracted with Orkin to bait down there. The guy from Orkin told me they have over 500 bait boxes down there. When Orkin proposed to the city to come all the way up Buffalo Ave. - I think they know a little more about the city and the habits of rodents - the city said "no, there is no reason to bait this end." So they didn't. They baited there. Now we have rats out here.
R: So you think they drove them here?
Mary: We had one in the living room. I just about had a heart attack.
Mike: It's scary.
Mary: What worries me is the winter, when they are looking for heat and warmth and getting out of the cold.
Joe: I've been here 25 years and never had a problem, up until this year.
Another neighbor, Norman Hoffman happened to come home and pulled into his driveway next door, He was asked by his neighbors to tell his experiences concerning rats.
Norm: I have dogs and one of them gets at least one rat a night. I walk him after midnight every night and you can see the rats scour around the street. My in-laws live up the street. And my sister and her husband live on 82nd and Edison and my brother-in-law got the T-Rex traps and he and his neighbors got over 100 rats already.
Mike: These are not mice. These are rats. This started when the city tore up 56th and Buffalo Ave.
Joe: You got it from Buffalo Ave. to LaSalle Expressway. It probably starts at 58th or 59th, because that's where they started baiting and goes all the way up Buffalo Ave. Frankly, I'm not comfortable in the neighborhood like I used to be. When I go out at night, I make noise to scare the rats.
Mike led me to his vegetable garden in his yard which was apparently torn to pieces.
Mike: I had to pull my garden.
R: The rats ate your tomatoes?
Mike: They eat everything.
Norm: There is an uneasiness now. I think about it every day. I have a rat problem. Come here at about 2 am, when garbage cans are out, and you'll see them. I got a dog - once a night - I'm dead serious - he gets one.
Joe: I have to be careful even if I'm going out for a minute. You gotta make sure you close the damn door behind you so they don't scoot in the house.
Mike: It's robbed the peace of the neighborhood.
Joe: At night I only half kind of sleep because after the episode with the one in the house, I'm always listening to hear if I hear something out of the normal in the night. My saving grace was for a chunk of the summer I was in the hospital. I didn't hear it.
R: That was a good thing?
Joe: That was a good thing.
|Above: House after house I visited had rat traps, set and baited.
Below: a resident showed how rats had gnawed through her tote. She found them inside the tote.
Leaving these neighbors I wanted to see if their problem was an isolated problem. I walked down the street about a block and stopped at a house and simply knocked on the door.
A woman came out. I asked her if she too had a problem with rats.
The woman: Right now, we have 12 rat traps at our house. We set them every night. So far my husband has caught about 30 rats. You know, we lived here almost 29 years and never had a problem with rats. This is the first year. We see them running at dusk. Our greatest fear is that now that cold weather is coming where are they going to go?. All our neighbors are setting traps.
Going down several streets, I crossed over and walked up to 82nd. There I saw a man in his backyard. I approached his home.
R: Have you had a problem with rats?
John: Guess what I am doing now? I'm baiting traps.
John showed me several traps along the side of his house, one of them larded with peanut butter.
R: This is, obviously, a serious problem?
John: It is a nightmare. I have one trap here and one trap there. I've been burying the rats because they stink in the garbage.
R: How many have you killed?
John: About 30 so far.
R: What is the cause?
John: I don't know. My other apartment house got me noticing.
John led me to another house on 82nd St where he showed me his front porch.
John: They ate through the porch so I had to board it up. Then they ate through here and so I had to put metal here.
He took me to a neighbor's backyard.
John: The guy in the brown house, his garage door is totally destroyed. They burrow underneath. (Pointing to a worn spot on the ground) This is their trail. You could see them running and they tunnel underneath the garage. I stuffed a rag and put ammonia in it to scare them away.
R: Where are they coming from?
John: I don't have the faintest idea. My dogs killed three of them. I came home one night at one in the morning and my youngest daughter seen one of them run across the yard. My biggest concern is that they will get in my house.
R: This is widespread?
John: Go to Walmart. They are sold out with anything that goes with rats. You won't find any rat traps.
Leaving John, I walked down the street to try to discover just how widespread the problem was. I found a group of people outside.
I asked them about rats.
Teenage boy: I see them running through the yard.
Young mother: There are so many of them. They come out every night. They live under our shed so I put rat poison out. But there is no garbage in my shed. It's a problem. We just moved here. I have three kids, 2, 10, and 13,and rats are in my backyard.
Moving further down the street, I came upon more people outside.
R: Have you seen rats around here?
Woman: Oh my God, they are everywhere. Literally at night you just watch them run back and forth across the street.
Randy (coming out of his house) I caught 35 rats so far. I started taking pictures of them. I called the city.They said it is not their problem. The rats are living underneath my shed.
Woman: When we moved in, I had to clean up all the rat poop in the shed.
Randy: I catch almost six at a time. I just threw out my big wooden traps because they were so bloody that actually I just bought new ones yesterday. I have lived here about 14 years. This problem started this year.
Woman: Welcome to our neighborhood.
Randy: It is ridiculous how big they are. I found holes in the garden. They started to eat my plants. They'll eat anything. What I'm worried about is once it starts getting cold out they will start nesting in my house. I can't let the dogs out at night. My neighbor uses a live trap and I just use a BB gun and pop them in the head and kill them for her.
R: She has aproblem too?
Randy: Everybody has a problem.
R: How far does it go?
Randy: My buddy lived on 56th and Stevenson and it started there when they opened up the sewers.
Randy showed me his well-kept backyard, with a pool, a hot tub, a trampoline and a play set and pointed to the various spots where he found and killed rats.
Randy: Now every time I catch them, I take pictures. I got one that was so big that it got snapped across its chest and it was able to drag itself underneath my shed. I didn’t know where it went until a couple of days later when all the flies were coming out and I had to reach under my shed and drag it out.
I buy mechanic rubber gloves and get disposable plastic spoons and I scoop peanut butter and I have the gloves on and do the traps. I put them out and, in the morning, I grab new gloves because I use the same traps over and over, and with the blood that gets on the traps, I have to wash where the rats got killed.
I had one rat, it was so big, it got out of the trap but the tail was still caught and it went through the fence and I had to pull it back while it was still alive and shoot it. A neighbor had one where the head was stuck between a wooden fence and the concrete of the house and it must have been there for days. It was still alive but the flies were chewing on its head and I had to go over and shoot it and pry the fence open.
I don't know how many neighbors are willing to talk about it. But I'm pretty sick of it. I told the city "you don't help with anything."
Woman: So you been calling the city also?
Randy: Yes. But the city is not doing anything. So I told all the neighbors, "We got to work together. If we don't, they are going to be in the houses." It can get real ugly, especially if the animals start all getting sick.
I stopped at several more houses and all of them had the same story…
What is the point?
Maybe there is no point other than to simply point out that, at least according to some neighbors, this is a problem.
Not a problem the Reporter, or Bob Anderson, made up,but a serious problem.
It's real, and its name is "rats."
No, this is not about spending money on Blues Festivals and Hard Rock Concerts. Or giving a millionaire public money to build a hotel.
This is a real problem in the city. One that hits right where the people live,at their homes.
Something the city ought to be paying close attention to, but, apparently is not.
Now what can be done?
Who will help?
|Sewer rats, not field mice, have taken up residence in sections of
LaSalle. There are so many of them, that (below) sometimes they
are killed two at a time in traps.