Rats Caught Squatting in Quincy House

The discovery of rats in Quincy House last month has Harvard administrators taking steps to stop the rodents—who are already causing problems for Cambridge health officials—from further infiltrating University housing.

The Quincy House Superintendent’s Office caught four rats last month while looking for mice, according to Gary P. Albert, who is in charge of pest control at Harvard.

“The company that we contracted with to take care of the issue, Best Pest, cleared the problem up very well. It is no longer an issue,” said Alpert, whose official title is entomology officer of Environmental Health and Safety. “From time to time we get rodents and that it is not abnormal.”

Alpert—who received his Ph.D. in biology from Harvard—attributed the rats to maintenance issues, food supply and an overflow of rats from the Square.

“There are a lot of bad boys coming from Harvard Square,” Alpert said. “We aggressively work to make sure there is no food to support the rats.”

He said Environment Health and Safety, in conjunction with House superintendent offices, is addressing the issue by inspecting the perimeters of the Houses and by sealing entryways to keep out the furry creatures. Quincy residents appeared nonchalant about the incident.

“I’ve seen the rats. They always freak my girlfriend out, and I always see a lot of cats. That is why they always like it here,” Quincy resident Chris J. Vena ’05 said.

Cambridge’s public health and public works departments are also dealing with local residents’ concerns about the rodents.

“We are hearing anecdotes that there is an increase, and we are taking this very seriously,” said Lisa C. Peterson, Cambridge commissioner of public works. “There seem to be changes as to where the rats are going. There are people who are experiencing problems with rodents in their yards that have not experience them previously.”

The city has also taken measures to address the rat problem and launched a website to inform citizens of preventive measures. It hired pest control expert Frank Fothergill, whose experience includes work on the Central Artery construction project, to strengthen the city’s rodent control efforts.

“We had him review internal protocols to see if they are as strong as they could be,” Peterson said. “He has reassured us that a lot of our programs in place have been what they should be.”

The city will ask residents’ permission to inspect their properties in addition to conducting a door-to-door survey, and will focus its efforts on Area 4, a section of Cambridge closer to MIT that is the main source of the complaints, according to Peterson.

She said that the rats in that neighborhood should not pose any problems for Harvard students.

“The rats don’t move more than 100 feet from a food source; the rats in Area 4 are not affecting Harvard,” she said.

Rats are apparently not the only animals threatening fair Harvard these days. A wild red fox was recently found on the campus of the Business School.

Alpert put a positive spin on Cambridge’s new furry visitors.

“It demonstrates that wildlife is returning to Cambridge with the cleanup of the river,” he said.