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For months Heather Colvin has been dealing with some unwelcome squatters in her backyard.

Rats.

“I just had a huge one run across my feet the other day walking into the backyard,” Colvin said. “Me and my neighbor stood out here and saw about 15 of them playing across the street, and so far I’m getting a lot of dead one ones because the dogs keep bringing them to me like a present.”

Rats have dug a burrow in Colvin’s vegetable garden and taken up residence there. Between the vegetables, a small pond and dog waste left by her pets, Colvin said she apparently has an ideal habitat for rats.

Rats are a growing problem on the 1200 block of Marengo Avenue, where Colvin lives, as well as in some other parts of town, according to Mike Boyle, the head of the village’s Department of Public Health and Safety. In response to this surging population of rodents the village is going after the rats where they live.

Forest Park will begin supplementing its regular pest control program in which its contractor, McCloud Pest Control, places rat traps in alleys. Soon Boyle himself, a certified pest control technician, will ask residents for permission to go into yards and drop rat poison directly into the burrows.

“We’ve increased the alley baiting program and while that is being effective and we’re getting a lot of rodents, there are still a lot of incidents where we find the rats are burrowing on people’s property,” Boyle said. “I’ve seen a number of burrows in people’s yards. Sometimes you just have surges and increases in different areas and you adjust accordingly.”

The poisoning of the burrows is intended to be a temporary measure.

“It’s going to combat the surge and allow the routine alley program to work.”

Boyle said he will only go on private property if the property owner signs a consent form. He plans to use a rat poison called Maki Paraffinized Pellets, which is comparatively mild as far as rat poisons go. He described the poison as a general use pesticide.

Nonetheless, it is important that people and pets, especially dogs, stay away from the pellets and not ingest them, Boyle said. The pellets cause internal bleeding and because rats cannot vomit they suffocate to death.

Ken Kleisner lives across the street from Colvin and said he too has seen a lot of rats. He has even begun taking matters into his own hands. Kleisner and his neighbor hooked up a flexible hose to his neighbor’s van and sent the exhaust fumes down into a rat burrow to kill the rats.

During the winter Kleisner said he saw rat paw marks frequently.

“I’ve tracked them all over the neighborhood,” Kleisner said. “I’ve tracked them as far as the middle of the 1300 block, behind Walgreen’s, behind the White Hen.”

Kleisner said his neighbor has a burrow of rats living under his garage.

“I used to see three or four a night,” Kleisner said.

Several residents in the neighborhood blamed the rodent problems on a demolition project that took place five years ago when the ice house at the old Acme Resin facility on Circle Avenue was demolished. A garbage hauling operation on Circle may also be contributing to the problem, residents speculated.

Boyle said it’s important that homeowners keep their property clean and keep trash lids closed and free of overflowing garbage. He also encouraged pet owners to clean up any pet waste immediately, as the rodents are attracted to feces.

Homeowners who see rats are encouraged to call the village’s Department of Health and Public Safety.

In Kleisner’s neighborhood though, the rats will take a small victory this year. He said this will be the last year for the vegetable garden he has lovingly maintained for 15 years.

“I’d rather not give them a place to live,” Kleisner said. “I just don’t want to put up with the rats coming into the yard. They did seem to like the cucumbers.”