LONGPORT – After local residents killed 26 rats in a one-block radius near 30th Avenue, Mayor Nicholas Russo posted a letter on the borough’s website on Oct. 12 informing residents what they should do if they see rats in the neighborhood.

Russo said one resident wanted the borough to take care of their problem, but it would not be legal for the borough to enter private property to provide extermination services, he said.

“We have an ongoing pest control contract and we sent them to our public buildings, but exterminating on private property is the owner’s responsibility,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “There are rats, possums and rabbits living in Longport, but there’s not a lot we can do about it. These animals have been here long before any of us mammals were here, and they will be here long after we are gone.”

The borough’s pest control company indicated there is no abnormal activity on public lands, he said.

Instead, Russo said the ones is on homeowners to be vigilant and get their properties exterminated if they have problems.

Residents Richard and Debi Kreisl, who have lived on the corner of Manor and Pacific avenues since 2011, said they became aware of the problem in late August when their neighbor asked them if they had seen any rats in the area. While they were talking, a rat ran across the porch.

That peaked their interest and soon afterward, they noticed a rat in their yard. They set out traps on both properties and they trapped 14 rats and their neighbor got 12, Debi Kreisel said.

She contacted the borough, and then the Atlantic County Board of Health. A county investigation confirmed there were rats in the area, she said. County officials also told a contractor building the home across the street, who was throwing trash and food wrappers into a makeshift dumpster, to clean up the area.

“I went to Borough Hall yesterday to get the reports from the Building Department, which showed the house that was torn down was being treated for six months before it was demolished. They obviously had an infestation of rats and mice,” she said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon.

However, a borough official told that just because the house was being treated, it doesn’t necessarily mean there was an infestation, Kreisl said.

“Everyone is pointing fingers,” she said. “And when we first approached the borough, we were the only ones complaining.”

Since then, other neighbors have noticed the problem, she said.

“If this had happened on 4th of July weekend, everyone would complain. But because it’s after Labor Day and the people are gone, no one notices,” she said.

Local ordinances require homeowners to provide proof of extermination to receive a permit to raze a home.

Margate Code Enforcement Officer Jim Galantino said Margate, which also has lots of new construction going on throughout town, has had no issues with rats.

“We have bay rats, the brown ones that always run around, but nothing else recently,” he said.

Galantino said the city also requires homeowners to exterminate before tearing down their homes to ensure there is no infestation.

“If there were an infestation, they would scurry when the house is demolished,” he said.

Kreisl said she paid $600 to hire an exterminator to treat her home on a weekly basis.

“We haven’t seen anything for the last 10 days,” she said. “We’re hoping we caught them all and exhausted the colony living under our deck.”

In his letter to residents, which will be included in the next edition of Town Topics, the borough’s newsletter that is sent to all homeowners, Russo said rats are indicative of seashore living.

“Addressing rodents is a community effort,” Russo wrote.

According to the Atlantic County Department of Public Health, rats are attracted to a food source and need food, water and shelter to survive. Rats will only travel about 150 feet from their burrow, so people in the immediate vicinity should be vigilant in reducing conditions favorable to rodent activity.

Russo said the Code Enforcement Department is now requiring contractors to have two covered trash cans on every work site – one for trash and the other for recyclables. Contractors should also refrain from putting anything into open dumpsters that could be food for rats, including coffee cups and lunch bags, he said.

“However, how do you stop a pedestrian from throwing in their leftover lunch?” he said. “There are some people who have been here for 45 years and never saw a rat.”

Russo said there have been sightings of bay rats around jetty areas when there is an exceptionally high tide and they are displaced from their nesting areas.

If rats are displaced during high tides, could they also be displaced with the high water table caused by this summer’s rainy weather?

“If it is from all the rain we had, hopefully it will not be as wet this winter,” Debi Kreisl said. “But I think something else is going on.”

She said she is concerned about another much older home across the street that’s going to be torn down this winter.

Debi Kreisl said someone at the building department told her that 30 homes are slated to be demolished and rebuilt over the winter.

According to the health department, pets should not be fed outdoors, or if they are, food cleaned up within 20 minutes; and pet waste cleaned up daily. Bird food should be put on a raised platform and spillage cleaned up daily. Vegetable gardens and compost piles should be rodent-proofed.

Rodents burrow into the ground along walls. Holes at least 2 inches in diameter could be an indication of a burrow.

“If you have burrows on your property, you will need to take action to address the problem,” Russo’s letter states.

Hiring an exterminator or setting out traps that can be purchased at hardware stores can help solve the problem.

“Don’t disturb the burrows; you want to kill the rodents, not cause them to move elsewhere,” the mayor said. “Please be vigilant. With a combined effort, we will continue to keep Longport the wonderful community that it is.”

Call Borough Hall at 609-823-2731, ext. 100 with any questions.