Rats plentiful in Tallinn, getting rid of them up to property owners

Brown rat (Rattus norvegicus)
Brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) Source: Zeynel Cebeci/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Citizens of Tallinn have reported an unusually high number of rat sightings this year, while the city offers property owners no relief. The capital's public works department said that apartment associations have access to extermination services that do not cost too much. A zoologist suggests betting on prevention instead.

Tiina Tarve has been a resident of the Kadriorg borough for 25 years but has never seen the rat problem this bad. "Never before have I seen two large rats playing in the yard in broad daylight and again individually on consecutive days. There seems to be a lot of them this year. I have bought and set up three poison packs in the apartment building I own. I will set them up in other places, but it is little use as they have other suitable lodging nearby," Tarve told ERR.

Tarve sent an email to the Tallinn Kesklinn city district government only to be told that property owners are expected to take care of problems.

"I asked them to check the house next door where food is prepared in the basement, with couriers going in and out all day. There is no sign and no garbage containers other than a small biodegradable waste one. There was an outdoor cafe in the yard last year for which a wooden floor was built that is still there – good lodging for rats," Tarve said.

She said that other neighbors have also complained of rats. "People said they have often seen rats on Reidi tee and the reading cafe area in Kadriorg that is just a few buildings from here. They wrote that rats live beneath impractical wooden walkways, and that the cafe might as well be renamed rat park," Tarve shared. She asked Kesklinn City District Elder Monika Haukanõmm to get rid of the pests in the area, which Haukanõmm said the city has done twice now.

"It is nice that she responded promptly as it is a general concern. I believe the city should find the money for general deratization, if only to stop disease from spreading," Tarve found.

Tarmo Sulg, deputy head of the city's environment and public works department, said that complaints about rats have become common. The city offers apartment associations no support fighting rats.

"Talking about pest control, extermination, complete with monitoring and follow-up extermination, costs €80 for an apartment building," Sulg said.

Rat numbers and migration are often tied to human activity, including all manner of digging, construction and roadworks that cause vibration and rats to leave their subterranean abodes in search of more comfortable places.

Sule said that the city is aware of where rats nest and efforts to fight the pests are maintained.

Zoologist: Rats part of natural diversity

University of Tartu assistant professor of mammalogy Jaanus Remm understands people's displeasure but suggests seeing rats as part of natural diversity.

"It's okay to want to live without rats, while we need to remain human and avoid inhumane treatment of other living beings," Remm said.

The zoologist added that exterminating rats with poison runs the risk of pets or birds of pray eating the poisoned carcasses.

Tallinn mostly has brown rats who came to Estonia in the Middle Ages. "The species is a part of Estonian fauna now, while it first came here with civilization from South Asia, China," the zoologist said.

While the brown rat has been known to carry disease, the chance is not great. "One should not eat a piece of bread a rat has gnawed on, while everyone who walks on the same street with a rat will definitely not get sick," he explained.

Remm suggested people learn to live with rats and use preventive measures to keep populations from growing out of hand, such as keeping the rodents out of buildings and pantries.

"Rat numbers are directly dependent on how much there is to eat," he said.

If rat populations remain small, there is no reason not to consider them as cute as squirrels which is another species of rodent well adjusted to life in cities," Remm said.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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