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Rat calls on the rise in Erie as Buffalo earns dubious title

Rodents appear to be making a comeback in Erie County this year.

There has been a 59 percent spike in rodent calls to the county's rabies control program so far this year.

"We were literally busy all winter and right into the spring and summer," said Peter Tripi,  senior public health sanitarian for the county Department of Health.

The spike, which has continued since the summer, is happening because of the extremely mild weather last winter. Typically cold winters would have worked to shrink the rat population, Tripi said.

"Rats are opportunists," he said. "They'll take advantage of anything and everything they can to survive."

That assessment coincides a pest control company's declaration that Buffalo is  in the top 30 cities for rat problems.

Buffalo ranks 29th on a new list of the country's "rattiest cities," according to Orkin, the Atlanta-based company.

And Erie County definitely is responding to more calls. Through Oct. 17, the county received 3,230 calls for rodent control service, Tripi said. Over the same period last year, his office got 2,037 rodent control calls.

For all of 2015, Tripi's office received 2,554 calls for rodent control services.

The spike's not just happening locally, but also nationally, he said.

Orkin's list, which was released this week, ranks cities based on the number of residential and commercial "rodent treatments" performed by the company from Oct. 1, 2015, to Sept. 30, 2016. Orkin and its affiliates have more than 400 branches across the country, according to Hoover's.

The data is based on market areas. The Buffalo market area includes calls from several locations in the region, according to a spokesman for Orkin.

Related: Rats on the run in Western New York

Part of the region's efforts to deal with rats in recent years has been the move to using totes for garbage collection, a transition that got going in Western New York a little more than a decade ago.

The number of rodent complaints dropped in Erie County as more municipalities moved to garbage totes as a mandatory part of their refuse collection. There were 4,745 complaints in 2006, compared to 2,482 in 2014.

The latest increase isn't happening in any particular area, but is more widespread in nature, Tripi said.

In zip codes where there have been rodent issues in the past, the county's seen an increase in rodent complaints, though not close to the level that existed prior to the implementation of totes.

The rat problems can be both indoors and outside. Erie County officials recently dealt with the case of a small child being bitten by a rat inside a home. Traps were set in the home and the next day five rats had been caught, he said.

Some communities in Western New York, including the Village of Hamburg and West Seneca, recently started using totes to deal with rat problems. Rats arrived in Hamburg in the summer of 2014, and that community got its totes late this summer.

Earlier this year, Lancaster officials sent out an employee on garbage patrol to deal with rat issues.

Who topped the "rattiest cities" list? Here's the top 5: Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose.

Buffalo's spot on the list is right behind St. Louis and right in front of Kansas City, Mo. Rochester came in 35th.

In 2014, the last time the list came out, Syracuse ranked 18th.


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