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FOX 11 Investigates: Rats in Green Bay

A rat is seen on a trail camera in a backyard on Green Bay's west-side (WLUK).

GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- FOX 11 Investigates is taking you into the hidden world of rats in Green Bay.

"It makes me cringe," said Green Bay resident Chris Calaway. He has lived on the west-side for 14 years.

"This is the first time I've ever seen rats here," Calaway told FOX 11 Investigates.

When he first heard about rats moving into the neighborhood a few months ago, he set up traps.

He says he has caught three rats in his yard but he knows there are more around and he doesn't like it.

"They're very destructive," Calaway said. "They'll chew through concrete. They'll chew through wire."

Just how bad is the problem? FOX 11 Investigates met up with city inspector Eric Crummy to find out.

"It seems like anybody who has this job becomes the rat guy this time of year or rat lady," Crummy said.

He gave FOX 11 a tour of home that had a recent rat problem outside.

"There was probably, in this section here, probably about 20 burrows," Crummy said as he pointed to a backyard.

This is just one of the nearly 200 rat complaints on the west-side.

These are just the complaints filed with the city. There could be a lot more.

"People are just embarrassed. People don't want to bring it up to us so we don't know about a lot of the sightings that have happened," Crummy said.

It's pretty hard to see a rat, especially during the day. Crummy showed us video of rat captured in a live trap in Green Bay.

But we wanted to see rats in their element: roaming around, outside, at night. So, we set up trail cameras in areas believed to be infested with rats. We hit the rat jackpot.

One homeowner had seed spilled from a bird feeder. It turned into a feeding frenzy for rats. Our camera caught eight rats in one clip.

Another night, we moved the camera to capture the rats coming in and out of their burrow.

A few blocks away, we caught a glimpse of a rat living under a shed that belongs to Ken Vanidestine.

"Lifted the floor up and saw a nest in there with babies," Vanidestine said.

A few weeks ago, he found rats living under the shed. He thought he got rid of them. But they're still coming back.

FOX 11 Investigates set up a camera inside his shed. It captured rats sniffing, exploring and then slipping out into the night.

"What I think they do is go out other places and eat and come back here and this is their nest," Vanidestine said.

So there definitely are rats in Green Bay. But that's nothing new. FOX 11 highlighted the same issue in the same part of town four years ago.

So, what's the difference this year?

We asked exterminator Josh Erdman if we're seeing more rats in Green Bay or if the rats are just in different places.

He replied, "Just in different places. I don't think the actual number here in Green Bay is any higher."

Erdman, who owns Erdye's Pest Control, has spent 10 years working as an exterminator in Green Bay. He has a theory about why there are so many reports of rats this year.

"There was a big disturbance over here with the stadium basically, they did all that new development and in the process of tearing down and rebuilding, they just displaced a large area that had rats and they had to go somewhere and they kind of spread out," Erdman said.

Vanidestine says the problem pre-dates the development.

"They were here before that," Vanidestine said. "I grew up right next to the railroad yard and I saw them there."

"They're a little more prevalent now," he added.

Crummy says there's no way for him to know exactly where the rats came from.

"A lot of people ask me about that because there has been concerns in that area," Crummy said. "If there was a finger to point then there would be a resolution. There would be a way to prevent it."

"They do move around," Erdman said. "So, having them in new neighborhoods is something that happens every year here. It kind of depends on the state of your neighborhood."

No matter where they came from, rats are here. What can be done about it?

Crummy says you can start by making your property less attractive to rats.

  • Eliminate possible food sources like bird feeders or gardens
  • Eliminate water sources
  • Thin out plants that could provide shelter
  • Fill in any holes that may be a burrow

"We're not against gardens. We're not against bird feeders. We're not against anything. We're just saying those things have potential to feed or provide habitat for something," Crummy said.

Chris Calaway filled in burrows for an elderly neighbor who had a rat problem.

"Probably almost a dozen holes just around her garage," he said.

But Erdman says that won't always work.

"You can't really seal rats out of anything. If they want to get in, they're going to get in," Erdman said.

Erdman says the best remedy is to set up bait to kill the rodents.

"To me the scariest thing is if they want to get into this house, they will chew right through that foundation and get into that house. There's nothing you can do about it unless you kill the rat," Erdman said.

Vanidestine has tried several remedies over the years and the rats keep coming back.

He's left with one more option. He's taking down his shed.

He realizes that won't stop the problem everywhere.

"They're not going to have anywhere to go," Vanidestine said. "They'll scatter other places."

And even if the rest of the neighborhood does its part, exterminators say rats will still be in the city.

"There's always going to be rats in Green Bay," Erdman said.

The Brown County board recently set aside $5,000 to help residents pay for traps to deal with rats. That money will be available when the new budget begins in January.

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