CITY HALL — Saying the city's rat problem is "out of control," a maverick alderman is suggesting using a bait that causes sterilization in female rodents.
"The rat problem in our city is out of control," Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said Wednesday. "They carry diseases that negatively impact our communities. We urgently need to do more to stem the population growth. This is a quality-of-life issue that we should be dealing with more effectively in our city."
Last year, New York City's transit agency began using a product called ContraPest, which speeds the natural egg loss in female rats, leading to permanent, irreversible sterility. The product's maker, SenesTech, and the transit agency say a study showed that more than half of rats found had consumed the bait, and the study saw a 43 percent drop in the rodents in Grand Central Station's trash room. The Atlantic magazine wrote a story on the program a year ago.
Yet rats remain a big problem in Chicago, Fioretti said, although he relied mostly on anecdotal evidence. He said he toured both the old and the new 2nd Ward Tuesday, and "I saw a lot of the scurrying around of our rat population.
"It's just all over," Fioretti added. "We haven't been addressing the problem during the winter months at all." Fioretti said hungry rats are now emerging to feed on the trash that's been buried under the snow for months.
Fioretti did cite a survey by the Animal Planet cable channel that said Chicago is the fourth-worst city for rats in the world.
Fioretti said individual female Norway rats common in Chicago can produce as many as a dozen litters in a year with seven to nine "pups" in each litter.
"It ends up being a never-ending battle," he said.
The liquid sterilization bait, he said, was designed to attack that problem, and has the advantage of being "non-toxic, non-poisonous and environmentally friendly."
Fioretti said he planned no City Council action on the matter, but he hoped the Emanuel administration and the Department of Streets and Sanitation would take action. He said he met with Streets & San officials in November, and "they said they would explore it.
"We've gotta be very aggressive," Fioretti added. "They need to take a firm hold."
"The Department of Streets and Sanitation takes rodent control very seriously and is always looking for innovative ways to improve its service," responded spokeswoman Molly Poppe. She added that year-to-date calls from residents for rodent-control services are down 55 percent from last year, adding, "The city recently launched an innovative preventive rodent-baiting pilot that uses city data to predict rodent complaints and allows baiting crews to stop colonies from being established."
According to Poppe, the department is meeting with SenesTech.
"The meeting has been scheduled for some time," she added, "and we are going to explore how this product could work in Chicago."