Dozens of rats are invading one neighborhood in Los Lunas. They are the size of small puppies, says Josie Navarrette, a zoning enforcement officer for the village.
“I’ve never seen them that big before, with big, long teeth,” she said.
The Village of Los Lunas was first informed of a rat sighting last Wednesday when Navarrette was called to a residence on Camelot Drive. Navarrette says she saw the rats — one dead in a trash can and another scurrying across the floor near her feet.
Jerome Chavez, the animal control officer in Los Lunas, met Navarrette at the scene. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this,” he said. “I do believe somebody is poisoning them. There have been some dead ones found. Maybe there are more. In my opinion, I don’t think it’s a huge problem.”
The question is, where are the rats coming from?
Camelot Drive is located on the other side of NM 6 from where Home Depot is being built near Los Lunas High School. Construction workers are currently moving earth, preparing the site for the building.
“Some people think they are coming out because of the construction, and they needed a place to go,” Chavez said. “But there hasn’t been any road kill, with animals crossing the street. We haven’t seen that happening.”
According to Chavez, the village doesn’t deal with rodent problems. “People need to call an exterminator. Our control only takes care of mosquitoes,” he said.
The current drought conditions may have something to do with the introduction of rats, said Linda Cisneros, animal control director of Valencia County. She said rats tend to overpopulate areas in times of extreme dry weather.
“Usually, they are manageable in the community. We don’t see them a lot,” Cisneros said. “During a drought, they start leaving their natural areas to seek water and food. Then they start coming to residential areas, where people water their plants and take care of their animals.”
Cisneros encourages residents to prevent rodent problems by using poisoned bait or spring-type mousetraps.
“A lot of people are afraid to put out bait because of their pets. But bait is safe to domestic animals and children, if you take the proper precautions,” she said. “All you have to do is put it in a disposable plastic tub, like cool whip. Cut a hole in the side the size of a silver dollar. Rats will get in there and get the bait.”
The animal control director says to put peanut butter on the mousetrap before nailing it to a wooden structure. “Remove the dead rat, throw it in the trash or bury it. Remember to double bag it,” she said.
Does the community need to worry about the rats carrying disease or the plague? Chavez said the village is checking to see if animal control needs to have the rodents tested.
“Plague is carried by fleas on rats,” Cisneros says. “There is no indication it’s here. Even still, there should be a concern.”
Cisneros said the Hantavirus is also a danger that can be carried on the rodents’ dried feces.
“Wear gloves to clean areas with droppings,” she advises. “Take precautions not to breathe dust that is stirred up.”
Dealing with rats is not something the village is experienced with, according to Village Administrator Phillip Jaramillo.
“Rats are not something you find in this area very easily,” Jaramillo said. “It’s hard to discover where they come from. We haven’t heard of any other areas with this problem. The information we’ve received is that the rats may be due to dry conditions or a number of other things going on in the neighborhood.
“Residence by residence needs to deal with it. There are rodent control companies better experienced with how to deal with them.”