Rodent Revolution: Washington, D.C. Faces Worst Rat Infestation in Years


Eddie Connor

December 12, 2017

Front of a newspaper detailing Washington, D.C.'s rodent infestation

Washington, D.C. was recently ranked the fifth most rat-infested city in America. Whether you’re in the city proper our out in the suburbs of Silver Spring, MD, you may have noticed a few more nosy rodents than usual. The D.C. Department of Health says they are seeing a large increase in rat extermination calls this year, compared to the last four years where the number of calls actually declined. Things have gotten so bad, Mayor Muriel Bowser is looking into how the city can counteract this rodent problem.

Why are rodents rising up now? And what does this mean for your Washington, D.C.-area home or business? At Connor’s Pest, it’s our job to keep your property protected from mice, rats, and other local pests. We’ve done the research – here’s what you need to know about this rodent revolution and how you can keep rodents from eating you out of house and home.

D.C.’s Rodent Woes

As of last month, the city of Washington, D.C. received 4,869 complaints about rats in 2017, compared with 2,300 in 2015 and 3,500 in 2016. Things were especially bad in the 23 city parks controlled by the National Park Service; for example, at Dupont Circle park alone the city discovered 150 active rat burrows with up to nine rats per burrow – that’s 1,350 rats just within the traffic circle!

How did the number of rats double in less than two years? Well, if you know anything about rats, you know they can reproduce at an alarmingly fast rate. Female rats can have up to five litters a year of anywhere from seven to 14 rat pups each. Doing the math, in favorable conditions a rat population can grow by a factor of 10 in just 15 weeks. So, if you started with two rats on January 1st, in only a year’s time that family would number close to 15,000 rats.

 Washington, D.C. population is 672,000; there were 4,900+ rat complaints in 2017, a 57 percent increase over the last two years; 20 million rodents invade homes each year; and urban rats caused $19 billion in economic damage in 2000.

Favorable Conditions for Rodents in Washington, D.C.

Of course, Washington, D.C. isn’t the only northeastern city to struggle with a rat problem. New York City is now the second most rat-infested city, losing its top spot to Chicago in 2017. However, there are a few other factors unique to the District that may be the cause of such a sharp increase this year:

  • Population boom. The city is growing fast, with more and more people moving to D.C. in the past few years. This means the construction of new restaurants and bars, which means more trash. And to the common rat, which will eat anything from wiring to insulation, unattended garbage is like a smorgasbord.
  • New housing and construction. With gentrification of older areas and the expansion of the suburbs, construction is everywhere around D.C. at the moment. Unfortunately, when these crews tear down an old building or break ground on a vacant lot, they’re unearthing subterranean rat burrows, sending these rodent refugees scurrying to find shelter in nearby businesses and homes.
  • Unseasonably warm weather. In the end, it’s those “favorable conditions” that are the main factor in this massive rat increase. “The reason the rats are so bad now, we believe, is because of the warm winters,” says Gerard Brown, program manager of the Rodent and Vector Control Division of the D.C. Department of Health. Without a long, deep freeze of a normal winter cycle, rats can continue breeding and will survive until the spring thaw.

There Goes the Neighborhood

If you live in a suburb like Silver Spring, MD, away from the heart of downtown D.C., you may be wondering what this means for you. Just like with humans, when a rat population grows too large and too crowded, it begins to spread out and colonize other areas. Your home could be a target and you might not even know it until it’s too late.

Though winters may be getting warmer, it’s still not pleasant for rats to be outside, so they’ll be looking for place to hide this time of year that can provide them with food, water, and shelter. According to the National Pest Management Association, more than 20 million rodents enter homes each year. Even if you think your house is protected, rodents are exceptionally good at finding their way indoors; rats can fit through gaps as small as a quarter, and mice the size of a dime. And if the hole isn’t big enough, they’re perfectly comfortable chewing their way through virtually any obstacle.

 1) Store garbage in metal or heavy plastic containers with tight-fitting lids 2) Place trash outside shortly before pickup, instead of days in advance 3) Remove weeds and debris near buildings and in yards where rats can easily hide 4) Store food that has been removed from its original packaging in metal, glass, or heavy-duty plastic containers with tight-fitting lids 5) Remove uneaten pet food and store pet food in secure containers 6) Report rodent issues in your neighborhood by calling or texting 311.

How You Can Fight Back Against Rodents in Washington, D.C.

Though it’s nearly impossible to stop a determined rodent from entering your home or business, there’s a lot you can do to make things extra difficult for them. Taking just a few simple steps may be enough to convince a rat or mouse that your home isn’t worth the effort, and they’ll look for easier entry elsewhere.

  • Inspect both inside and outside your property for droppings, potential burrows, and rub marks along baseboards. Rodents don’t have great eyesight, and will often stick close to walls to travel through buildings.
  • Seal any cracks or holes in the outside of your home or business. Check for gaps underneath doors and replace window screens. Even if it looks too small for a rodent to enter, it’s better to seal it off anyway to prevent entry from other household pests.
  • Clean kitchens and dining areas of food waste and keep food items in tightly sealed plastic or metal containers.
  • Remove leaf piles and cut back trees or bushes a few feet from your home to prevent rodents from using them to reach hidden access points like the gutters or roof.

Resist the Rodent Revolution with Help from Connor’s Pest

Rats may be trying to take over the Washington, D.C. area, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit there and take it. At Connor’s Pest, we have over 70 years of pest control experience in the DMV area, and we’ll work closely with you to determine the extent of your rodent issues and offer a convenient, effective solution. If you suspect your home or business may have a rodent problem, contact us today to schedule your free inspection.