City combats rat infestation in downtown Evanston

Audrey Cheng

While taking out her trash one December afternoon, Weinberg senior Anne Nash encountered an unexpected visitor at her Orrington Avenue apartment: a rat peering over her garbage.

Nash’s incident reflects what some say is a problem in Evanston. In October and November, the city’s environmental health division received two calls warning of the presence of rats, division manager Carl Caneva said.

Caneva added even before he accepted his position six years ago, the department had been working to combat the issue.

The first phone calls the environmental health division received last October concerned rodents in the downtown area. Caneva said the phone calls pushed him to begin an investigation in the area around Orrington Avenue and Sherman Avenue and then from Clark Street to Grove Street.

“The first thing that we did was walk downtown and then write letters to the individual businesses to watch for rodents,” Caneva said. “Then, we asked them to give us a call with any information or questions that they had, and then we basically checked to make sure they had pest control.”

But not all city merchants have found rat infestation a major concern. Andy’s Frozen Custard manager Chris Miller said he has not seen a rat problem in his store or in any other restaurants in downtown Evanston.

“We have seen some burrows in plants that line city streets, but we followed all of (the city’s) recommendations, making sure the dumpsters are closed and making sure our door stops are installed and closed, and they seem to be working,” Miller said.

Overall, Caneva said he was fairly content with the businesses’ compliance.

“The business owners have been extremely cooperative and really helped us get the message out to correct this issue,” Caneva added.

Caneva said he believes the city’s cooperation with the business community to alleviate the problem is going well.

Despite these efforts, Nash said she has spotted rodents around the perimeter of the Hilton Orrington Hotel Evanston, Flat Top Stir-Fry Grill, Einstein Bros Bagels and a parking garage on Maple Street. She has not seen any in restaurants, she added.

Nash said she chooses to remain positive about the situation although she fears rats.

“It’s kind of been comical, but if it’s a serious problem and if rats were interrupting my daily life then I’d be really, really upset,” Nash said.

[email protected]