For seven consecutive winters, I’ve been saying, 'I’ve never seen it this bad," says exterminator Jeff Eisenberg of the city’s rodent problem. Eisenberg attributes the increase in mouse and rat activity, which he places at 50 percent each year, to the mild weather and Department of Health budget cuts. He advises people to mobilize their block associations, post fliers, and get neighbors involved in making sure curbside trash cans are sealed tight. If that sounds like too much activism, just call 311 and make a complaint. Landlords are required to address rat problems within 24 hours and mouse problems within 30 days.
HOW TO TELL IF YOU HAVE THEM
Mice will leave gnawed food containers and droppings that look like black grains of rice. You’re much more likely to have mice than rats—the rats have a city full of restaurants and overflowing garbage sites to investigate. But if they’re around, you’ll notice telltale signs. They have to sharpen their teeth regularly, so look for gnaw marks on doors, walls, and food packaging, as well as brown, greasy rubbings where they run along the wall.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU’VE GOT THEM
Traps—spring traps, glue boards, or nonlethal cages (try Havahart or Tin Cat) set along the walls at dusk with a thin layer of peanut butter as bait—are the short-term solution. If your traps work, use a long-handled broom and dustpan to pick them up—never use your hands, especially if you’re dealing with a live animal (duh).
Permanent eradication is a structural issue. As a temporary measure, plug holes larger than a quarter inch with steel wool, paying special attention to the gaps around pipes. Install a kick plate at the bottom of your apartment door. Steel wool will decay in time, so have your super or an exterminator use a combination of metal screening and concrete to block holes. It costs about $200 and takes two to three hours.