hot-topic rightBy DUSTIN RACCIOPPI

The days of sticking a piece of cheddar in the basement to bait a rat into a gory, spring-loaded death-by-trap are over. The best way to get rid of rats is slow and agonizing, but the upside is that it’s a community effort that can bring neighbors together.

So say experts from the Monmouth County Regional Health Commission, who came into Fair Haven Wednesday afternoon to give a few tips to concerned residents about the borough’s apparent rat problem. Rats have been seen near a pond on Fair Haven Road and behind the Acme supermarket, and the commission came to speak at the request of the borough government.

According to commission health educator Sophia Jozil, taking away all the things rats like — food, water, shelter — will eventually push the rats out or kill them. Or at least get them out of sight.

That means garbage cans and rubbish piles need to be as neat as possible, openings into the home need to be sealed, and water sources such as pipes and washing machines need to be kept dry.

“If you start taking away that, they’re going to start moving and find somewhere else,” Jozil said. “The big thing is you need to starve them.”

That means attention to bird feeders. Borough officials said last week they believe that birdseeds that have fallen to the ground may have contributed to the rat rising in town. Jozil said that once rats find a food or water source, they’ll learn the patterns of neighbors and latch onto it to survive.

“If your neighbor has rats, you have rats,” she said.

That’s where a little teamwork comes in, she said. Although a neighborhood watch may be a tad over the top, she did recommend forming one to pinpoint where the rats are coming from and where they’re going. Above all, neighbors have to work together to keep the area clean and rat proof, she said.

“It’s in the neighborhood and it’s everyone’s problem” Jozil said, “so it’s good to work with your neighbors to get rid of the problem.”

But that may not be enough to Fair Haven resident Pat O’Such. She believes the town must be more proactive in helping out. More specifically, she’d like to see the garbage and brush piles picked up on a more consistent basis. She says in the last few months, that hasn’t been the case and that could negate any neighborhood efforts.

“I think the town is not following through on the things necessary to keep the town clean,” she said. “It’s going to come back and bite them.”

For a more edifying read on rat control, check out this tipsheet on rat control.