Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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‘The rattiest block’: Downtown Evanston experiences post-pandemic rat frenzy

More+than+100+rat+sightings+have+been+reported+to+the+city+in+the+past+month%2C+with+about+a+quarter+of+these+sightings+in+downtown+Evanston.
Illustration by Lily Ogburn
More than 100 rat sightings have been reported to the city in the past month, with about a quarter of these sightings in downtown Evanston.

Crawling within the confines of Sherman Avenue, Evanston’s rat population appears to be on the rise, signaling a significant post-pandemic boom in rats wandering downtown. 

The Evanston Rat Map visualizes reported rodent sightings from the city’s 311 feed. More than 100 rodent sightings were reported in the past month, with about a quarter of those coming from around downtown Evanston.

Insomnia Cookies store operations manager Laura Dundas, said the rats have come out recently because businesses aren’t properly disposing of their trash. Dundas also credited the increase in rats to the construction of the new Evanston Labs building on Clark Street — at the former site of a Burger King — as the digging forced rats out of their own burrows. 

Dundas said the rat issue is most pervasive on the block where her business sits: Sherman Avenue in between Clark Street and Church Street.

“This is the rattiest block — this specific block — because you have all these restaurants,” Dundas said. “You get down to Church and go beyond, you don’t see many rats past Clark.”

To help combat rodents, Evanston mandates that the dumpsters in alleyways must be locked. However, city officials have stressed that much of the responsibility is on residents and store owners to mindfully dispose of food waste and clean up after their pets.

Campus Gear owner David Haghnaji agreed with the city’s sentiment.

“There are a couple of dumpsters that are supposed to be locked, which a lot of businesses don’t lock — specifically Einstein (Bros. Bagels),” Haghnaji said. 

Evanston used to have an outside contractor take the lead on rat control. But last year, the city moved its pest control services in-house, hiring Environmental Health Technician Donald Key.

With rats’ burrows shifted into the enclosed hedges on the corners of Sherman and Clark, Communication freshman Kaia Chen said she sees about 10 rats every night in that area when she goes on her nightly trip to Insomnia Cookies with her friend.

While Chen said she finds rats “adorable,” she believes the city’s busy downtown isn’t the healthiest area for them to live.

“I’m a big believer in that with any sort of rodent species, rehabilitation and relocation (is important),” Chen said. 

While Dundas didn’t name any specific businesses, she said people must take pride in keeping their workplaces — and city — clean to counteract the rats.

“Everyone has to have some form of prevention to keep (the rats) from coming into a restaurant,” Dundas said. “A lot of it is being clean. When I come in the morning, I clean the sidewalks off and (check) the garbage cans.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @ashkaranha

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