On Tuesday night the Rodent Issues Special Committee heard from Arlington resident and journalist Laura Kiesel on the dangers posed by Second-Generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides, or SGARs. Much of the presentation centered on the impact on animals higher up the food chain who ingest these poisons when they eat rats, as well as scientific questions about the efficacy of this approach.

Red-tailed hawk at Healey School

The death last year of the bald eagle known as MK, who frequented the area and was found unable to fly in an East Arlington cemetery after reportedly ingesting SGARs, generated a lot of attention about these substances. Local advocacy group Green and Open Somerville sponsored a talk by Ms. Kiesel at the Somerville Public Library last month, and you can watch the video of that here.

The ask last night was that the City of Somerville reduce the deployment of SGARs, limiting them only to infestations in order to reduce the amount of these substances in the animal food chain. The good news is that City staff expressed support for this approach and explained how they were moving toward this approach.

Ultimately, The War on Rats isn't going to be won by killing rats. If there's an infestation, that particular battle already has been lost. The key to winning this war is reducing rodents' food, water, and shelter. And this hinges on changing our behavior through education and enforcement.

One of my FY25 Budget Priorities is increased funding for public information campaigns aimed at changing resident and business behavior. We've seen our rat population increase dramatically in Somerville because of a lack of vigilance when it comes to keeping lots tidy and devoid of welcoming habitats for rodents, leaving water around for rodents to drink, and leaving food accessible to them -- particularly in our trash.

I believe composting is an important way we can reduce the availability of food sources to rats, by cutting down dramatically on the amount of food waste in our trash, while also reducing what we're putting in landfills. I also included an FY25 budget priority calling for a municipal composting pilot program in conjunction with a local composting non-profit.

Ensuring that trash and recycling barrels are free of holes that allow rodents inside is also key, and this is where enforcement comes in. I see far too many reports of trash put out on the curb that isn't in receptacles. We're replacing our open trash cans with better Big Belly receptacles, but littering contributes to the problem. And dog owners not picking up after their dogs provides an especially gross food sources for rodents.

It's going to take everyone coming together to do their part if we're to have success in fighting back the rodent invasion. I believe we can do it, but we need to make sure everyone knows what's required.

Jake Wilson


Somerville City Councilor-At-Large (he/him/él)