Rats are and have been a part of the Massachusetts ecosystem since the area was originally settled in the early 17th century. They are a “cosmopolitan” species commonly found in most urban areas, including Newton and other neighboring communities due to readily available food sources. Discouraging rats from living in our city will be most successful as a community effort. Here are some things to look for to determine if there are rodents on your property:

  • Rat Burrows – These are holes in the ground 4-6 inches in diameter where rats may be living. Look for burrows under fences, buildings, homes and cement slabs surrounding structures. You can test whether the burrow is active by filling in the hole with dirt and checking to see if it is cleared quickly.
  • Rat Tracks – In the winter, you may be able to spot rodent tracks leading to or from a burrow.
  • Droppings – Rats can leave 40 -50 droppings per day and are larger than mouse droppings (approx. ¾ inch in diameter)
  • Smudge marks (body oils) on walls
  • Sound of movement in walls and attics
  • Family pets staring intently at a blank wall

There are many things you can do to prevent a rodent infestation on your property. Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Maintain your property in a sanitary manner.
    • Keep grills clean
    • Store woodpiles neatly with a 12-inch ground clearance
    • Remove dog and cat feces promptly
  2. Rodent proof all accessory structures (ex. sheds) and garages using durable materials such as ¼ inch mesh, metal hardware, or sheet metal. Eliminate all gaps greater than ¼ inch.
  3. Reduce or eliminate rodent accessible food, water, and harborage (potential shelter).
    • Do not leave pet food out at night
    • Remove bird feeders that rodents can access.
    • Remove water sources
    • Keep compost securely covered
  4. Thin vegetation and keep grass and shrubbery cut short.
  5. Routinely inspect the property for evidence of rodents, including burrows, tracks, droppings, and chew marks.
  6. If you live in rental housing and you see signs of rodents, tell your landlord.
  7. Share this information with your neighbors. Rodent problems are a community issue. Working together will help eliminate this problem. If you discover rodent infestation on your property, contact a licensed pest control company for assistance. To report a rodent sighting, visit www.newtonma.gov/rodentreport.

Note: Most rat poisons kill more than rats—they also pose a fatal threat to birds of prey. This topic recently made the news after a Bald Eagle on Cape Cod died of what appears to be rodenticide poisoning. The tragic story was picked up by several newspapers, and went locally viral on facebook.
This issue should not only get attention when a culturally iconic species like a Bald Eagle dies. Nearly every raptor species is vulnerable to rodenticide poisoning, from Eastern Screech-Owls to Red-tailed Hawks. In fact, rodenticide poisoning is shockingly widespread. In one study, 86% of all raptors at a Massachusetts wildlife hospital tested positive for exposure to rat poison. For more info visit https://blogs.massaudubon.org/distractiondisplays/tag/birds-and-rat-poison/

Questions? Contact the Newton Health and Human Services Department at 617-796-1420.