Town of Winchester – Health Department

Rats are and have been a part of the Massachusetts ecosystem since the area was originally settled in the early 17th century. They are a "cosmopolitan" species and are commonly found in most urban and suburban areas, including Winchester and other neighboring communities, due to readily available food sources.

What can I do to prevent rats from coming onto my property?

  • Pick up animal feces: rats eat dog and cat feces so be sure to pick up after your animals
  • Birdseed: Keep bird seed under control and in the feeder as much as possible. Rats are drawn to bird seed on the ground.
  • Tree fruit: Pick up fallen tree fruit.
  • Trash: Rats will climb into open cans and root through the trash on the ground. Tie up trash bags and store them in covered containers until they can be disposed of properly. Replace any garbage containers that have holes.
  • Grills: Keep grills and grilling areas clean and clear of food waste.
  • Compost piles: Compost piles that are not properly contained provide food to rats. Make sure your compost is maintained securely and covered.
  • Yard waste and building materials: Make sure your yard is maintained and that yard waste is properly disposed of in yard bags. Stack building materials, lumber and firewood at least 12 inches above the ground.
  • Cover openings: Don’t give rats a place to live. Cover openings that are greater than ½ inch in diameter with concrete, sheet metal or wire mesh.

Will the construction I see in my neighborhood increase rodent activity?

  • Construction does not necessarily lead to an increase in rats. Increasing prevention strategies by working with pest control companies will help remediate rodent activity during extensive demolition or excavation projects.

How does the problem in our town compare to that of other communities?

  • Rats are a natural part of the urban environment in Winchester and the surrounding Greater Boston area communities. Rats have been with us for a long time and will thrive in places where they can find an abundance of food, water, and shelter. In general, where there are people, rats will often follow. Winchester is not unique to this issue.

What do you think is causing the increase in rat sightings?

  • The most scientific explanation and plausible cause is related to the shorter and warmer winters we have had in recent years. Rats are typically less active during the colder parts of the year and are less likely to breed. With a warmer winter, they can breed more and have more offspring that will eventually increase the size of the population we see during the summer and fall.
  • Additional reasons for increased rat sightings may include:
    • Construction: vibrations and excavations disrupt their below ground habitat.
    • Lack of natural predators such as coyotes, foxes, and birds of prey, due to over expanding development and decreasing green spaces.