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Posted at 12:49 PM ET, 03/ 8/2010

Eeek! Rats in MoCo school!

By Valerie Strauss

It’s not the first place you’d think would have a rat problem, but Burning Tree Elementary School, one of the finest schools in Montgomery County, has been having a bit of a rodent problem and 42 traps have been set in and around classrooms.

This was a post on the Burning Tree e-mail network [BTNET] for parents and staff members:

In response to soo [sic] many parent inquiries, Burning Tree Elementary School has only found one rat’s nest and two or Three dead rats. They have been working for the past couple of months on trying to catch these rat(s) as best they can. As BTNET is not to be used for discussion, please direct your inquiries to Mrs. Erdrich [the principal] and/or the PTA.”

Ellie Abramowitz, the president-elect of the PTA, said she had no comment. Principal Nancy Erdrich sent out an email to the school list serve today:

This is to let you know that the school has been working very closely with the MCPS department of pest control since rodent activity was noticed in the building right after the blizzard. Forty two traps have been set in and around the classrooms and two rats have been caught in the area.

Please note that we are following MCPS procedures and are working with all of the appropriate MCPS departments. Your children have not been in any danger. Our building services staff has been working hard to keep the building clean and they are sanitizing affected areas. The exterminator is coming to Burning Tree daily and is closely monitoring the situation. The PTA Board of Directors was informed of this problem at the February meeting.

It turns out that many public schools across the country have problems with rodents, so many, in fact, that the Environmental Protection Agency has a primer for school authorities on how to deal with them.

Here, on the EPA website, is “IPM for Rats and Mice in Schools” [Integrated Pest Management],
which comes, complete with pictures to help identify the various mouse and rat breeds, extensive advice on how to contain rodent populations.

Rodent infestation in schools is a worldwide problem. The government of Hong Kong, for example, just reported that the rodent infestation rate for the second half of 2009 fell to 3.6% while the full-year rate dropped to 6.1%, from 6.6% and 6.3% a year earlier, according to the Food & Environmental Hygiene Department.


Just so you know, according to the EPA:
The common response to rodent problems is poison baits, but they don’t work so well, it turns out: Some rats and mice have become immune to the poison, and poisoned rodents trapped in baits start to decompose and “create unpleasant odors and feed pest insects such as flesh flies and carpet beetles.”

(The better approach includes careful inspection, regular monitoring, sanitation, garbage management, trapping. And "some institutions maintain cats for protection against rodents. Cats can “prune” a mouse population but seldom eliminate it. They can be a deterrent to new mouse immigration, although it is entirely possible to have alert cats and still have mice present. Cats can kill rats as well, especially young rats; however, as with mice, cats are not a guaranteed rat deterrent.)

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By Valerie Strauss  | March 8, 2010; 12:49 PM ET
Categories:  Montgomery County Public Schools  | Tags:  Moco Schools, rodents in schools  
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