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PAWTUCKET ‚Äď When it comes to the city‚Äôs rat population, Shaun R. Logue knows his enemy.
He knows rats are extremely intelligent, highly adaptable and will eat almost anything.
Logue, the city's zoning and code enforcement director, also knows urban rats can get big ‚ÄĒ really big.
‚ÄúThere are some big guys out there,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve seen them as big as opossums at the transfer station.‚ÄĚ
Known as the city‚Äôs chief ratbuster, Logue is the driving force behind Pawtucket‚Äôs renewed efforts to win the city‚Äôs war on rats and he‚Äôs taking his crusade to the city‚Äôs Fairlawn and Woodlawn neighborhoods ‚ÄĒ two areas where rats are often seen scurrying down streets and through backyards.
The city is holding two community meetings next week to provide neighborhood residents with information on the city‚Äôs latest attempts to combat rats, including a new neighborhood rodent task force created to investigate rat harborage hot spots, and the bolstering of the city‚Äôs ‚ÄúE-rat‚ÄĚ computer-based tracking system.
The meetings, both at 6:30 p.m., will be held on Monday, at the Smithfield Congregational Church Hall, 514 Smithfield Ave., and Tuesday at the Woodlawn Community Development Center, 210 West Avenue.
There's no official estimate of how many rats rove the city's streets, but Logue says there are plenty.
‚ÄúOn average, we get 15 to 20 rat complaints a week, predominately from the Fairlawn and Woodlawn neighborhoods, which are located on either side of the city's waste transfer station,‚ÄĚ says Logue.
Rats will nest under buildings and concrete slabs, along stream banks, and in garbage dumps. Often, they will burrow under the foundations of buildings and develop an elaborate burrow system with an entrance and several escape holes.
Rats are usually nocturnal; however, as population densities increase they may be seen during daylight hours. They have an excellent sense of smell, taste, and touch.
Rat populations can expand rapidly. If unchecked, one pair can produce six to 12 young in 21 days. Sexual maturity is reached at three months.
Therefore, assuming adequate food, water, and shelter, a single pair of rats may multiply into more than 640 rats in one year.
Pawtucket officials have tried a number of innovative tactics to rout the rats, including bait stations at more than 100 locations throughout the city and a computer software system that allows officials to track rat complaints. The digital tracking program allows inspectors to keep track of where bait stations have been set, and will automatically pop up a follow-up notice two weeks after a trap has been placed. If no rats have come by, the boxes will be moved to an area they might be needed.
Logue says the bait stations are supposed to be checked every two weeks - in the past, bait stations have gone unchecked and untouched for as long as two months.
‚ÄúThis year, we‚Äôre really going to be stepping up the two-week follow ups and take a more systematic approach,‚ÄĚ he says.
Logue said the new neighborhood rodent task force will be comprised of two workers from the city Department of Public Works, assigned part-time and trained by environmental inspectors from his office, to identify properties with substandard zoning conditions or other conditions that could lead to rat harborage, such as overgrowth, discarded materials and rubbish and other rodent attractions.
The task force will commence on June 12, working from 4 to 6 p.m. three days a week for several weeks during the summer.
‚ÄúWe will start with a sweep of the Fairlawn neighborhood where we will go up and down the each and every street,‚ÄĚ Logue said.
Logue says the main goal of next week‚Äôs community meetings is education where he will give a presentation on the E-rat‚ÄĚ tracking system and provide residents with information on rodent prevention. It will also be an opportunity for Logue to hear suggestions from residents on ways the city can improve its rat control efforts.
Dist. 6 City Councilor Timothy Rudd will be in attendance at the Fairlawn meeting and Dist. 5 City Councilor Jean Philippe Barros will be attending the Woodlawn meeting. In advance of the meeting, Suzanne Mailhot and other members of the Fairlawn Crime Watch will be distributing fliers on rodent prevention and response throughout the neighborhoods.
The meetings will also be an opportunity to meet members of the Pawtucket Police Department‚Äôs Bike Patrol unit, under Lt. Kevin Santurri, which will be patrolling over the next several months in neighborhoods throughout the city.
According to Logue, cleaning up around homes and buildings can help control rat populations. Poor sanitation is one of the basic reasons for high populations of rodents in urban and suburban areas. Residents, he said, should pick up all garbage and litter, and store it in a rodent proof container. In addition to removing possible sources of food, they should also remove piles of trash or debris that could serve as cover.
‚ÄúThe transfer station is not the root of the rat problem in Pawtucket,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThe problem is that it‚Äôs a dense urban area with a lot of different ethnic groups that we would like to educate about rat harborage, which is caused, in part, by overgrowth, junk piles and debris, and not picking up your lawn or after your dog. These are all simple things people can do to help us combat the problem.‚ÄĚ
Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Tweeter @jofitz7