In response to accusatory charges of inaction, Ciommo says an effective multi-prong offensive is currently in place, and that near-monthly rodent-mitigation meetings at City Hall consider everyone from landlords and developers to residents and restaurateurs. Harvard spokesperson Josh Poupore adds that his team has appropriately monitored rodent activity around Harvard’s Western Avenue work site since the planning and demolition stages; Harvard entomology officer of environmental health and safety Gary D. Alpert takes a more defensive position. This past February, Alpert told the Crimson newspaper: “The bottom line is the rats are [the community’s rats], not Harvard’s.”
Others have been less quick to assign blame. “First and foremost, people have to take responsibility for their own trash,” says Webber, who recommends the video clip “Allston Rat City,” in which a dozen hungry stragglers feast on an Allston refuse heap. “They can’t just put a plastic bag out there with pizza boxes. Everyone is pointing fingers — businesses blame the residents, residents blame the businesses, and everyone blames Harvard, but nobody wants to spend 10 bucks to buy a new barrel and put out some traps and poison.”
RAT RACE Rodents took center stage in the most recent Allston-Brighton district-councilor’s contest, with challenger Alex Selvig complaining that the surge in rats has caused some parents to keep their children from playing outside.
No tall tales
There might be as many unsettling statistics and disgusting informational tidbits about rodents as there are actual creatures crawling through our sewer lines. With terrifying teeth stronger than most metals, rats bite approximately 50,000 Americans annually, many of whom are babies. As a species, they’re the most populous mammal on the planet. The particular variety that inhabits Boston’s underworld is the Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), which has thrived here for more than 300 years. They are excretion machines, shitting 50 times a day and pissing 80, are responsible for an estimated 25 percent of all electrical fires, and have infected with disease and caused the death of more than 10 million people worldwide in the past century. Especially shocking is their Gremlin-like knack for multiplying: city rats live only one year on average, but in that time mate like hair-metal heroes on Cialis. One rat couple can yield 15,000 offspring in a year, while males, on a good day, nail up to 20 mates every six hours (including, if there are no females around, other dudes).
The City of Boston — working with a state and federally funded brain trust from the Central Artery Project — once had the upper hand in the seemingly hapless rat battle. After being hired at the onset of Big Dig construction in 1991 to install preventative anti-rodent measures (and to curb hysterical public fears that rats might overrun Boston, à la the 1971 Ernest Borgnine cult-classic Willard), internationally renowned pest-control visionary Dr. Bruce Colvin studied the terrain and put in place an appropriate and advanced Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system known as the “Boston Plan.”