Yonker’s rat traps are catching tally catches, but the trash problem has yet to be worked on

  • “One of them took a pencil from the floor, set up a trap, dropped the pencil, took the bait and walked away”

It’s a story as old as time. Or is it tail?

When you think about all the efforts to get rid of rodents, images of Christopher Walken may come to mind, dressed in exterminator gear, trying feces plucked with tweezers from the Mouse Hunt movie.

Or maybe, more locally, a New York Daily News story nearly two decades ago about an Upper West Side man who beat rats with a baseball bat at night.

Yonkers is no stranger to rats and in the latest effort to contain the city’s population, green metal boxes shipped from Italy and filled with oreos and sunflower seeds are being placed in parks, sidewalks, and in restaurants and private homes.

So far the city has 30 boxes – most of them in the southwest of the city. At $ 274 per month per box, the boxes will cost the city just under $ 50,000 for six months. At the end of the six-month period, the city must decide whether to continue using them and, if so, how to finance them.

Five more boxes are rented out on private property.

“They’re smart, persistent, and calculating,” says Pat Marino, who sells the boxes at his Rat Trap Distribution store. “One of them took a pencil off the floor, released a snap trap, dropped the pencil, took the bait and walked away.”

The difference between the crates and other rat traps is that they keep the rats out of sight when they’re trapped, Marino said, and they come with a bait and dump service.

Seeds and oreo cookies in a rat trap at the intersection of Morris St. and Riverdale Ave.  in Yonkers June 30, 2021. Rat Trap Distribution, Inc. has set up over 30 rat traps in various locations in Yonkers.

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Poisoning rats gives them time to wander around, reproduce, and die in an unsightly place, said Jim Webster, who helps empty the boxes.

Rats are smart enough to know when they smell the decaying body of one of their own to stay away from, something Marino’s boxes overcome with a special solution that the rats fall into. Once the rats curl up a ladder strewn with food, they step onto a platform which dumps them into a non-toxic solution that will instantly knock them out.

15 of Marino’s boxes for the city, activated in late June, have caught 134 rats. The other 15 boxes have been installed but are still waiting to be activated as it takes a week or two for the rats to recognize the box as a food source before engaging the mechanism that traps them.

Favorite rat holes

As Marino walked down Riverdale Avenue near the intersection with Morris Street, he pointed to the holes rats had dug in the dirt on the sidewalk. Other rat traps were seen along a fence near a residential building.

Councilor Tasha Diaz, who represents District 3, pointed to nearby dumpsters full of garbage bags with visible holes.

“Wherever they put that rubbish, the rats were looking forward to it,” she said.

Trash also lined the fence near the dug holes.

“We’re part of the problem,” said Marino.

Diaz said she was considering using rat traps near garbage dumps or picking up trash more often.

But since old buildings are not designed for a modern garbage and recycling system, urban areas prefer space for more lucrative uses than garbage storage, and financing challenges, the garbage problem is complicated.

More trash, more problems

In Yonkers, part of the trash that piles up outside is due to many buildings nearing recycling, said Tom Meier, commissioner for the Department of Public Works.

In a limited space, the buildings then had to keep rubbish and two types of recyclable materials separate.

On garbage solutions, Meier said, the department is working cooperatively and gradually with landlords and management companies, rather than through enforcement and the imposition of fines, as an expensive measure would add additional costs to tenants.

The hope, Meier said, is that they will see some of the solutions that will effectively contain the rat problem and set traps like Marino’s in their basements. To get the rat problem under control, Meier sees a joint effort as a solution with the city, which uses its traps and other mitigation strategies and landlords and companies put their rubbish in safer containers and traps in their basements.

A rat trap at the intersection of Morris St. and Riverdale Ave.  in Yonkers June 30, 2021. Over 30 rat traps have been set up in various locations in Yonkers.

October will be three years since the city removed its 450 public litter bins. Meier said the move came after the trash cans were used by apartment building residents and commercial shop clerks to dispose of their trash, resulting in an overflow.

“We should pick up garbage bins – the industry average is maybe twice a week. We picked it up twice a day, ”said Meier, which led to a lot of overtime for the city’s garbage collectors.

“It’s not sustainable. It’s not practical,” added Meier.

Meier says he got as much praise as complaints about the litter box, but it’s about social responsibility. Property owners are responsible for keeping their sidewalks clean, he said.

About 70 or 80 trash cans have been restored in high-traffic areas since the removal, said Meier, and he is examining individual requests to get trash cans back in certain locations.

The rats like the Saw Mill River Corridor, Meier said, and they are drawn to food sources everywhere, like apartment basements, restaurants, and shops, not just garbage outside.

A trap of its own

What Marino’s boxes offer that other methods do not offer is a balance sheet.

“We have evidence. I like that,” said Councilor Diaz. “We have a body count.”

Meier agreed that it was good to have a count, but said it was difficult to say how well the boxes work compared to other methods as there is no way of knowing how many rats are using traditional poison traps, who use exterminators are killed.

It is too early to say whether the boxes have left a dent in the rodent population, said Meier.

Diaz said more trash bins are still needed, but they should be more strategic about where to place them so they don’t run into the same issues as before.

She’s also exploring what can be done with the trash: making sure the trash isn’t on the street too early, requiring more frequent garbage collection, rat traps near the trash, and educating landlords to keep it in safer bins.

“We know that there will be rats forever,” said Meier. “We just don’t want them to run over our feet to get their food.”

More information about Marino’s boxes can be found at www.ratsbegone.org. Those interested in getting their own box should call Marino at 914-704-2338.

Contact Diana Dombrowski at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @domdomdiana

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