Rat Sightings Lead to Complaints in Small Maine Town

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The small Maine town of Milford has been getting attention in recent weeks because of a rat problem.

According to Chief Josh Mailman of the Milford Fire Department, over the past week and a half to two weeks, the town has gotten a number of complaints about a number of rats in the area.

Last week, the calls went down to only three or four, and so far this week, there have been none.

"Some of the videos did show six or seven [rats] at a time," he said of the initial rodent reports, adding that a number of them were posted to a private Facebook group called Milford Maine Neighborhood Watch.

The images and reports prompted officials to remind residents to clean up trash cans near their homes, mow lawns and reduce other conditions that are conducive for rats reproducing.

"The big takeaway is they like food and shelter," said Mailman, explaining that if people "remove those, [the rats] will move on to someplace else."

Beverly Sibley, who lives in the village area of Milford where the rats have been spotted, said she saw a single rat on her property recently, but did not initially realize what it was.

"My son was there when we saw it, so he identified it," she said.

According to Keel Kemper, a biologist with Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the problem is not limited to Milford.

Kemper said Animal Damage Control Cooperators had received a significant increase in service calls for rat problems in recent weeks near both Rockland and Winslow.

He suspects the rats are following food sources and perhaps even have noticed that a number of people have been eating takeout at home instead of meals in restaurants, thus driving an increase in sightings.

In Milford, Mailman says experts have informed him that "environmental issues, an abnormally warm winter" and cleanliness issues near homes have been determined as causes for the rat spike.

With the drop-off in calls, he's hopeful the worst of the problem has come and gone, but he says anyone who does want to control rat populations should avoid using toxic chemicals to kill them.

"Poison has long-term effects," he said. "The safest and best way to do it is clean up the habitat and food sources."

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