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Unpleasant find: rodents in hill dorms

Taylor Conrad

After hearing her fellow dorm mates screaming about a rat in the hallway of Ethel Moore, junior Anjali Purkayastha went to investigate the upset and found a live rat stuck to a sticky trap last Friday. Purkayastha said an RA and resident removed the rat from the trap and then released it outside of the dorm. She also said there was another incident of a mouse stuck in the drain of the sink in the laundry room.

While studying in her porch room in Ethel Moore last Friday, junior Sara Jacobsen saw a quick movement out of the corner of her eye. Closer examination revealed a small rodent scurrying around.

Purkayastha and Jacobsen’s stories are just two of many that have led Ethel Moore residents to believe the building has a rodent problem. Sarah Howard, an RA in Ethel Moore, said there have been five to six reported sightings of rats in Ethel Moore and Mary Morse.

Mills uses the pest control service EcoLab. Manager of the HMDS office Debra Park said the exterminator responded to complaints just a few days after they were filed. Sticky traps were placed under radiators in the hallways and bait traps were put in the attic and drop ceilings.

Park said the exterminator deemed the problem in the dorms not an infestation. “He did see some droppings, old and new,” she said. “But it was nothing like an infestation.”

According to Paul Richards, director of Campus Facilities, the campus doesn’t trap rodents.

“We bait and kill,” he said. “[The rodents] eat the bait and go off and die.”

EcoLab sets the traps and checks them once a week. According to Kevin Parker, the general manager of Oakland’s Omega Pest Control, this process might be ineffective. “Rats aren’t stupid,” he said. “They eat fresh foods. When they’re in the garbage, they are picking through for fresh vegetables, nuts, fruits and meat. Once it starts to spoil or taint, they won’t eat it. So unless you’re checking and changing the bait everyday, [the traps are] not effective.”

Parker said rats move into buildings due to a number of factors.

“Harsh weather conditions, looking for places to nest, burrowing in holes or vents in the building, doors not being shut properly or poor sanitation can bring rats inside,” he said. “Also if the breeding population is running out of room, they’ll start entering buildings for more space.”

Richards said that because they took out the fence and back patio at Ethel Moore, the animals were left without homes and moved inside the building.

“We think it is due to a lot of construction,” Howard said. “The rodent life was forced from their homes and they are coming in.”

Rodents can not only serve as a disruption to one’s sleeping and studying habits, but can also carry an array of health risks.

Kevin explained an extremely rare but deadly disease rats can carry.

“The Hantavirus is transported in rat and mice feces,” Parker said. “When the feces are disturbed, the virus is airborne and a person can inhale it and die. But this is very rare. The chances of this happening in Oakland, California are slim to none. It usually happens in the desert or south west areas, but there have been cases of it in California.”

John Harris, a professor of Biology at Mills, said rodents carry an array of diseases and can also cause damage to buildings. “Rodents chew on wallboard, wires, and wood and can cause damage, even fires by these activities,” he said.

In addition to diseases and building hazards, Parker said rats are just “pretty nasty.”

“Basically, rats just contaminate things,” he said. “Rats never stop dribbling urine, even though it is unnoticeable to the human eye. So basically, anywhere that rat has been has urine on it: clothes, food, countertops, floors.”

Residents can take measures to keep rodents out of their rooms. Parker advises against leaving unsealed food or water out. If a rodent is spotted, Howard said students should report it to the RA and fill out work orders.