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Somerville Expands Free Rodent Control Assistance Program, Issues Guidance to Prevent Rat Activity

The City of Somerville has expanded eligibility requirements for its Residential Rodent Control Assistance Program, nearly doubling the number of residences that qualify and extending access to free rodent control services to more than 90% of residential properties in the city. 

The Residential Rodent Control Assistance Program offers free weekly rodent control services to eligible residences until rodent activity subsides. City health inspectors survey properties for evidence of rodents and provide educational materials about rodent prevention to owners and tenants, who must agree to take the recommended actions (such as removing outdoor pet food bowls or clearing yard debris) in exchange for outdoor abatement services.

Under the City’s new guidelines, any property with three or fewer units is now eligible, whereas in previous years, only owner-occupied properties qualified.

For more information about rodent prevention or to sign up for the Residential Rodent Control Assistance Program, visit or call 311 (617-666-3311). 

Rat Control and Prevention Tips

While pest control services are an important element of a broader mitigation strategy, baiting alone won’t solve the problem. Rodent activity persists because of human behaviors, so besides making use of the Residential Rodent Control Assistance Program, residents are encouraged to take steps to reduce rodent activity in and around their neighborhoods. Here are some tips to get started:

Know How to Identify Rat Activity

The first step in addressing rat activity is to know when and where it’s happening. There are several key indicators to look for:

  • Burrow holes: The entrance holes to underground rat burrows are generally 2 to 4 inches wide with smooth edges, often found under plants or items stored outdoors. Burrows usually have more than one entrance, so it’s likely that you will find multiple holes. 
  • Droppings: Rat droppings are around ½ to ¾ of an inch long with blunt edges. They tend to be found near trash or other food sources. 
  • Gnaw marks: Rats habitually chew on hard surfaces to file down their teeth, so recent marks from chewing can show you where they’re located.
  • Runways: Check walls and grass for signs of runways. Rats run along the same path many times a day, leaving dark track marks along their route.

Remove Food and Water Sources

Like any animal, rats need food and water to survive. Removing their access to these resources can reduce their numbers in your neighborhood.

  • Don’t leave water bowls for pets outside overnight, and dump out other sources of standing water.
  • Do your best to regularly inspect your property for food that may be accessible to rodents. Common food sources can include bird feeders, pet food, compost, and trash that’s not stored properly. 
  • Put trash in outdoor barrels as close to your pick-up day as possible. Leaving it outside for multiple nights invites rats.

Work With Your Neighbors

Rats don’t obey property lines, so any preventative actions you take will be more effective if others in your neighborhood are doing the same. Talk with your neighbors about what you’ve been seeing and what you’re doing to prevent further rat activity. Remember that in most cases, a combination of environmental factors enables rats to thrive in cities, so multiple prevention strategies may be needed.

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