Rats aren't just a big city problem anymore it seems, as some Long Island residents the furry rodents are running rampant in certain towns — and it may be a result of the COVID pandemic.
One Nassau County homeowner first saw something was wrong over the summer. Donna Ostrowski said she spotted a half dozen rats scurrying along her fence as she and her family enjoyed an outdoor dinner at their Salisbury home.
"We were eating dinner in the backyard and there were six or seven of them that ran along my fence. And I was like, there's a problem here," said Ostrowski. "They're like this big. They're big!"
That's far from the only time that rats have been spotted in unusual places lately on Long Island. Photos taken last month in Levittown show dead rats, just one of a half dozen communities a Nassau County civic leader said have registered complaints about the vermin.
"I put out traps to no avail. They spring the traps and take whatever bait you have," said Helen Meittinis.
One homeowner said that he and his neighbors called the county's health department for help, but they were all simply given guidance on how to reduce the rats' food sources. Nassau County Legislator John Ferretti Jr. thinks the county ought to start trapping rats, and proposed spending nearly half a million dollars to do just that. That extermination plan he said was cut in the 1990s due to budget problems.
"They have to go out there and do something about it, and not put a Band Aid on it," Ferretti said. "To start a program where the Department of Health could set traps on people's property if they're having a rat problem."
The county executive's office said the new budget already includes more than a dozen new positions to protect public health, and to support ongoing efforts to conduct inspections for pests. However, the main objective remains protecting residents from COVID-19.
Ironically, some residents in Salisbury think it's the virus that has led to the surge in rats in their neighborhood, saying that the infestations started after a local restaurant was shut down due to the coronavirus.
Whatever the source of the rats may be, Ferretti said he will try to convince the legislature's Republican majority to push through his rat control plan before the end of the year.