About the Rodent Control Program

The City of Somerville is committed to rodent control and public education. Rats have always been present in cities and are a fact of urban life. However, we can work together as a community to control rat populations through proper care and maintenance of our trash and properties.

The Board of Health, Health Department, Inspectional Services Division, Constituent Services (311) and other City departments are working together with residents, business owners and community groups to promote a better understanding of rat behavior and how to minimize their presence. Please see the Frequently Asked Questions below for more information and tips on rodent prevention in your neighborhood.

  • Preventing a Rodent Issue

  • Identifying a Rodent Issue

  • Reporting a Rodent Issue

  • Free Abatement Services

  • What the City is Doing

PDF preview links to rodent prevention brochureHow can I prevent rats from becoming a problem on my property?

To control rodents you must remove easy access to their survival basics: food, shelter, and water. See the Preventing Rodent Activity on Your Property brochure for tips on rodent prevention and control.

Rodent proof your home:

  • Seal all holes, cracks and entryways around pipes, cables and wires with course steel wool or wire screen that the rodents cannot chew through. Holes as small as ¼ inch can allow entry into a building. Concrete may be used to prevent rodents from burrowing under the foundation.
  • Ensure all doors, windows and screens fit tightly. Repair or replace any damaged screens.
  • Cover the gnawed edges of entryways with sheet metal to prevent further chewing.
  • Keep inside doors to the garage and pet doors closed at night.
  • Use self-closing exits on clothes dryer vents to the outside.
  • Do not forget to check roof and eaves areas and to repair or replace vent screens.

Sanitation and Prevention

  • Remove trash and yard debris frequently to eliminate possible nesting areas.
  • Keep grass and landscaping trimmed and away from the house.
  • Do not leave pet food out. Feed only the amount your pet will finish.
  • Remove dog waste daily.Dog waste that is left on the ground can be a source of food for rats.
  • Repair water leaks or drips at faucets, hoses, AC units. Remove accidental sources of water.
  • Use trash containers with secure lids.
  • Inspect and clean your trash containers periodically.Rinse and replace when necessary.
  • Keep pet and bird food sealed and stored in rodent proof containers or inside your dwelling.
  • Put bird food in feeders only and clean up any spills.
  • Do not feed stray cats, pigeons, and other ground-feeding animals that are not your pets.Scattering breadcrumbs and leaving food out for stray or wild animals will also provide a constant source of food for a rat, which can quickly multiply into a rat colony.
  • Store boxes, firewood and equipment off the ground at least 18 inches and away from walls.
  • Compost properly.

What evidence might I see if rats or other rodents are on my property?

You would likely see burrow holes, droppings, gnaw marks, and/or runways. Burrow holes are holes in dirt or paving from one to four inches wide, with smooth edges.They lead to underground rodent nests.Droppings are often found close to garbage; if they are moist and dark it is a sign that rats are active in the area.Gnaw marks might be seen on plastic barrels.Runways are dark, greasy track marks created by rats from constant back and forth movement through grass, etc.

Once rats find a consistent food source, such as trash improperly stored outside, or rotting fruit on the ground, they will visit that source again and again.Rats typically move in straight, repeated runways from shelter to food source.The runways may extend over several properties (rats may live at one location and feed at another).Check along fences, walls, and hedges for evidence if you suspect rodent activity on your property.

Click here for images of burrow holes, droppings, gnaw marks, and runways.


I saw a rodent in the City. How do I know if it is a rat?

About 6-8 inches long at maturity
Blunt head
Ears proportional to the size of their heads
Dropping around ½ in. long
Thicker (sometimes hairless) tails
Rat silhouette
Generally about 2-4 inches in length from nose to end of tail at maturity
Triangular head, pointed muzzles
Disproportionally large ears
Droppings range in length from 1/8 to 1/4 in. long (resembles rice)
Thin tails
Mouse silhouette
About 2.5 feet long (nose to end of tail) at maturity
9-13 lbs (about size of a house cat).
Pointed muzzle, pink noses, and sharp teeth
Hairless tails
Opossum silhouette



I have seen rodents in my home or in my yard. Who should I call?

If you notice any evidence of rodent activity on your property, contact a professional exterminator to properly eradicate the issue. Exterminators can be found in the local phone book or online.Ask to see proof of MA state licensure for pest control before you sign a service contract.

Who do I contact if I have concerns about rodents or health issues on private property?

Inspectional Services is responsible for enforcement of the State Sanitary Code, which covers sanitation violations on private property. The City also enforces the Somerville Code of Ordinances Section 11-38: Rodent Control. Inspectional Services health inspectors respond to housing and sanitation complaints, and also regularly inspect and issue violations for yard overgrowth, debris and other property conditions that can lead to rodent habitat.Please note that private property owners are responsible for keeping their properties and buildings/rental units safe and healthy as specified by local and state codes.

To report a rodent or health concern, please contact 311 by phone or online. If you can give specific information as to where you suspect rodents are feeding or burrowing, that is extremely helpful.

Who should I contact if I see rodents on public property?

Inspectional Services conducts inspections when rodents are reported seen on public streets, sidewalks, parks, plazas, and other public spaces. Inspectional Services health inspectors regularly inspect and issue violations for trash and recycling improperly set out on the sidewalk, which can be a source of food for rodents. Inspectional Services works closely with the Department of Public Works, which is responsible for rodent control in public parks and squares, public buildings, and construction projects on public property. To report a rodent issue on public property, please contact 311 by phone or online.

What will happen after I report a rodent control issue to the City?

Every rodent complaint is reviewed and inspected by Inspectional Services. If the rodent issue is on public land (including city streets), the City has a contract with a professional exterminator and will bait the area as deemed necessary by the City. If the complaint is on private property, Inspectional Services will enforce the State Sanitary Code and local ordinances when applicable, up to and including requiring private landowners to bait their property as deemed necessary for public health.

How can I check on the status of my rodent control request?

When you report a rodent issue to 311, a work order is created for Inspectional Services. Each work order has a unique work order number. To check on the status of the work order, a resident can call 311 or log in online to view the status of the work order.

The Residential Rodent Control Assistance Program offers homeowners free one-time rodent control services including baiting, dusting, and trapping, reaching nearly one-third of owner-occupied one-to-three-family homes in the city. City Health inspectors will survey the property for evidence of rodents and provide educational materials on rodent prevention to qualifying owner-occupants, who must agree to take recommended rodent prevention actions (such as removing pet food bowls from outdoors or clearing debris from yards) in exchange for the recommended free rodent abatement treatment of their choice. Extermination services will be provided by a licensed pest control company.

To inquire about the program, contact 311 online or by phone.

The City has many initiatives to curb the rodent population in Somerville.However, City initiatives alone cannot fix a rodent problem.We need assistance from residents and business owners.Please click here to find tips on what you can do to prevent rodent problems on your property.

Trash Ordinances: If there is no source of food for rats in a neighborhood, they will move to another location. Following the three simple procedures below will greatly reduce the rodent problem in your area:

  1. Keep food off the ground,
  2. Use tight-fitting lids on all trash containers, and
  3. Do not put trash out until 4 p.m. the day before pickup

The City has several ordinances in place that describe proper trash maintenance for residential and commercial properties; for specifics, see Somerville Code of Ordinances, Sections 11-31, 11-34, and 11-35.

Restaurant Requirements: As part of the business licensing process, the City requires all food establishments to have a current Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan and utilize professional extermination services.Both restaurants and their associated dumpsters are inspected in relation to sanitation and rodent control.

Rodent Control Tips and Information