Rats run rampant in East Somerville

On June 6, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

East Somerville residents have been spotting more rats than ever lately. Bigger ones, too.

East Somerville residents have been spotting more rats than ever lately. Bigger ones, too.

By Harry Kane

“There were three giant rats just playing. I mean, they’re nocturnal animals, so for them just be out during the daylight is a big deal,” said Toni Brogna, a resident of Mt. Vernon Street in East Somerville.

Brogna owns a duplex at 19-21 Mt. Vernon St. She’s lived at the house for nearly 35 years. Brogna’s parents recently passed away, and she made the decision to stay in her family house.

For many years, it was rare to see a rat, she recalls. But a couple years ago, Brogna became concerned. “You started seeing rats, a little bit here, a little bit there. You saw them more frequently.”

In the past, the furry pests have been spotted under the McGrath Highway overpass feeding on pigeon carcasses. Apparently, rats eat pigeon droppings and dog stool, too. These scavengers get their nutrition from a variety of sources.

“At the foot of Mt. Vernon Street, 93 goes down towards Sullivan Square, so you are underneath the highway. There are pigeons there all the time,” Brogna said.

Last summer, Brogna remembers more rats than ever before. And this summer she fears the rats will return in larger numbers. “I’ve never seen the quantity, and the size of them. They are getting bigger and bigger,” she said.

Brogna attended a local meeting and alerted city officials that the rats are growing in size and number. “Right now, they’re probably about a foot. They’re huge, they’re probably the size of a small cat.”

Rats produce litters roughly a dozen times per year, with only a 21-day gestation period. These incestuous frenzied cannibals multiply at an astounding rate.

Brogna always had a vegetable garden in her backyard. But this year she won’t be growing her vegetables like in years past. “I want to do everything and anything to prevent the rats from even coming across my property,” she said. “I don’t want to see them, at all.”

Whether Brogna’s backyard is clean or not, the rats scurry through, looking for food and shelter. “I’ve had a few occasions where I go pick up a dead one.”

Brogna just had to replace all of her trash barrels. It cost almost $400 to replace the plastic barrels. The rats had chewed through them. She asks her tenants to keep everything closed and clean. But the rats keep coming back.

“Now you see them in large numbers,” Brogna explained. “You don’t see a rat, you see two or three playing.”

Brogna used to barbeque, garden and spend afternoons in her backyard. No more. “I won’t even go into my backyard anymore. I won’t have a cookout. I don’t want to go back there. I don’t want to seem them,” she said.

A farmer suggested that Brogna use mint spray to keep the pesky rodents away. Since then, she sprays Castile peppermint and oil around her property.

A bunch of residents on Mt. Vernon Street share the same concerns. “We’re all beginning to hire the same exterminators,” she said.

The City of Somerville is not responsible for exterminating rats on private property, so the costs of hiring the exterminator is a price the locals must pay.

Following the last snowstorm, Brogna began hiring the exterminator to bait for this year’s wave of rats. She has spent nearly $600 this year, but she knows it will cost much more to fend off the urban rodents.

Two years ago Somerville brought in specialist Dr. Robert Corrigan from New York to investigate rat infestation. According to Corrigan, rats will come out in the daylight hours when their colony grows too large. Some feel the “rat whisperer” should be brought back to help solve the rampant rodent resurgence.

Elio LoRusso is running for Ward 1 Alderman and lives one street over on George Street. “Basically, my property is in the rear of Toni Brogna’s property.” LoRusso admitted that there is a serious rodent problem in East Somerville. “It’s gotten to a point where we can’t even go out at nighttime and sit on our patio.”

He said the rodents have been appearing more in the past few years, and that last year it was bad, but this year it’s worse.

“If you come to George Street in the afternoon, you’ll see rodents on the sidewalk, on the street, in the yard.” LoRusso said he understands that the city has been baiting but he feels that they need to be more pro-active. “Whatever they’re doing, it’s not working,” he said.

The rodents are affecting the quality of life in East Somerville, LoRusso said. “It’s out of control. It’s something that really needs to be put on top of the priority list.”

Superintendent of Inspectional Services, Goran Smiljic.~Photo by Harry Kane

Superintendent of Inspectional Services, Goran Smiljic. – Photo by Harry Kane

Another distressed resident is Barbara Castro, who lives at 8 Mt. Vernon St. She’s been at that house since 2003. Castro attributes the increased rodent activity to warmer winters, construction and garbage.

“When we sit on the porch, we watch them kinda run from upper Mt. Vernon Street. We’ll see them running across our property. They often go to the neighbors, under the porch,” Castro said.

Castro thinks the massive rats are larger than ever. “Probably the size of large cats or small dogs,” she noted.

The residential properties are using bait boxes to kill the rats, but Castro feels that is like a Band-Aid instead of a solution. The real concern, she added, are the commercial properties on Broadway, but she didn’t want to single any one business out from the rest.

“When you walk along Broadway, the sidewalks aren’t clean, the streets aren’t clean.” Castro thinks people throw trash on the ground, and the businesses’ food attracts the rats.

Castro said the worst experience she’s had so far happened when she opened her back door, and a rat ran across her feet as she stepped over the threshold.

The new Superintendent of Inspectional Services, Goran Smiljic, took over a few weeks back and understands that some “major changes” need to be made to avert rodent infestation before it gets even more out of control.

Right now, there’s a tracking system in place to alert the city of repeated rodent sightings. This database will be overhauled in the coming months to better enforce the rodent related concerns in Somerville, according to Smiljic.

Smiljic admitted that he is still learning about the ways to reduce rodent population. “I’ve never dealt with this many rat issues,” he said.

A new cutting edge pilot program in New York’s subway system was recently launched to sterilize female rats. If successful, the product, which is orally administered to rats, could cure Somerville of the diabolical rodents.



56 Responses to “Rats run rampant in East Somerville”

  1. Jef Taylor says:

    Paying to bring Bobby Corrigan in again seems like an expensive solution. He will tell Somerville the same thing he said two years ago: remove the food sources and the nesting habitat and then you can get control of the rats. Killing a few rats each week with rodenticide bait won’t get on top of the problem since each female produces, on average, 8 new pups every four weeks. Somerville needs to mandate rodent-proof trash receptacles for residents and commercial properties, and to ticket violators of the health codes (make people pick up trash).

    As far as cat-sized rats go, I’ve noticed that the more people are afraid or or aggravated with rats, the bigger they seem to get. In reality the biggest male Norway rat tops out at around 1 pound.

  2. QTMARIE says:


  3. JAR says:

    What you need is a few good-sized alley CATS in the area. They’ll chase away any rats, no matter the number or size.

  4. dbs says:

    doug up back yard huge holes on myrtle st.

  5. Paul says:

    100% agree with Jef. We need to focus on prevention.

  6. MarketMan says:

    Someville needs to start enforcing laws that are normal for most towns and cities: pick up trash, keep property well kept, remove debris in yards, keep grass and weeds cut short, etc. Why are so many properties allowed to have overgrown weeds and tons of debris? Why are the property owners and/or residents not fined?

    I brought this up with the city MANY MANY times. I even spoke to THE person who is supposedly in charge: Ed Nozzo. His response was that we have laws against those things. I said, yes there may be laws but they are not being enforced. I gave him an example of a property that has had 3 abandoned cars, overgrown weeds, and tons of debris for at least 6 years! His response was “give me the address and we’ll deal with it”. One year later and more phone calls, nothing has been done!!

    That’s why we have rats. Nobody maintains or takes care of their property. We are giving the rats food and places to live/hide.

  7. paul says:

    Fine any business or person whose trash is contributing to a food source. Fines are great, they raise revenue and they improve behavior, and they are a choice because you can change your behavior to avoid them.

  8. Harry says:

    CATS? The rats are so big they would eat the cats for breakfast!

  9. Jennifer says:

    OMG! Read this, and this is exactly what we are going through over here, in the neighborhood by the Healey school! HUGE RATS EVERYWHERE! Even in the day! Watched one jump out if the trash can in font of the school during school hours, run across the playground & into the yards of the residents. I have been in tough with the city & they seem to be very responsive, so are the residents in this area. One thing though that really upsets me is that if residents have trash cans without a lid, they get $100 fine, yet there is NOT one lid on any trash cans in the whole city. How is that fair or helping??? The city needs to use the money collect from the fines to replace ALL trash cans with rodent proof ones!!

  10. East Villen says:

    The rats in East Somerville are out of control. They come out at high noon – they just don’t care. Go to the kid’s playgrounds at dusk and you will see rodents playing there. It’s a disgrace but the city doesn’t seem to care.

  11. Rachel says:

    As a Somerville resident, I too have experienced the rat infestation on several occasions, including a rat that scampered by my feet when putting out my covered, raccoon-proof trash can.

    As a individual who rents, I am also frustrated by the fact that the Somerville resident has to cover the expenses for any rodent infestation costs. I think the renting audience is one major factor that has been left out of this situation and discussion. I also maintain my yard and trash on a weekly basis. I still have a rat that lives under my shed. In fact, the rat kicked out the friendly groundhog that previously lived under there.

    I tend to agree with Barbara Castro’s comment in the article that the increase in construction projects around Somerville has increased the rat population. It would be interesting to see if there is correlation in rat spotting and activity in relation to the various construction projects in the area.

  12. Lisa says:

    I’ve lived on pinckney street for 8 years and this year is the worst it’s ever been. So many rats in my yard, dozens of them at a time. We too replaced our trash bins and have done everything possible to get rid of them. Nothing works and the city doesn’t want to help us.

  13. Harry says:

    People, rats are our saviors when you think about it! Let’s just spread the news. Do you really think the California yuppies would want to live in a city invaded by gigantic rats? That’s our plan, my friends.

  14. Observer says:

    How about inspecting the trash and recycling trucks parked across the street from Mt Vernon. The city’s contract calls for them to be power washed on a regular basis. The company also has a lot at McGrath near South, Medford and Gore streets.

  15. Anna says:

    In all my 30 years in this city, we have never had such a rat problem. And it is city-wide, they are all over West Somerville, too.
    All of the construction projects are definitely a huge factor. And the city refuses to make the developer responsible for the costs of extermination. A friend had a huge rat infestation that began at the same time as a construction project and it cost her 100s of dollars. All the city will do is bait the sewer, which doesn’t help when they are burrowing to the back of your house.
    Another factor is the city trash barrels, placed in parks, playgrounds, bike path, etc., are open. I have seen these over the weekend filled with food and dog poop. How long does it sit there before it is emptied?
    And don’t forget that we are now allowed to raise chickens in our backyards. I can’t imagine that that would be a rat deterrent.
    But in my opinion, the biggest reason of all is the city hall employees. The Mayor continues to hire from outside of the city. These people do not know the city, and don’t really care about it. They show up, collect a check, and go home. We used to have city people in those positions who saw the problems firsthand and addressed them.
    If the city allows this problem to fester and worsen, you will see a lot of fancy, high-end condos sitting empty. Because all of the street festivals and music festivals in the world will not keep people here if they are fighting with rats for territorial rights. It is certainly one of the issues that is pushing me closer and closer to leaving.

  16. Chris Birch says:

    Interesting, all of this.

    I’ve lived in E. Somerville for 7 years now. I walk daily down Broadway to Sullivan Sq. Station.

    To this day, I’ve never seen a rat. So, there’s one data point.

    Rats the size of cats and dogs? Doesn’t happen. Witness testimony in these cases see to be very unreliable, or a the very least “enhanced.”

  17. danna says:

    they have completely taken over myrtle street its so unbelievably nasty its crazy. They are everywhere I can barely go out side and play with my daughter

  18. danna says:

    Chris Birch one day you will see they are the size of CATS and SMALL dogs you just haven’t seen one yet. I have seen it. ITS crazy believe it or not!

  19. Jackie Velos says:

    Just last month, my son was attacked by 3 of these monsters. He was eating chips outside and they just started chasing him! We called the cops, but they said to call the city.

  20. Maureen says:

    The rats are rat sized. Why is that not enough? We are overrun with them – I regularly call out to them when I’m heading out to the backyard so that they will at least run away – yesterday there was a rat sitting on my front porch when I got home – he looked at me and jumped off the stairs – I talked to an ethical exterminator who essentially told me that I should set lots of traps but that it’s not really going to help because the problem is too large and there are too many non-compliant neighbors – he was too nice to take my money for a job that I could fail just as well at on my own as with his help.

  21. gloria says:

    I agree MORE LARGE CATS LESS DOGS if the rats smell the cats thats the ends also the mayor of slummerville needs to get our fine people to keep our city clean when i grew up in som in the 50s and 60swe took pride of our city

  22. Harry Dunn says:

    Where are all the rats going to go when they tear down the transfer station on Poplar Street????? It’s sadly going to get much worse.

  23. amen says:

    so, true Maureen-who cares what size? but whoever said 1 lb is the largest is all wet. We’ve multiplied number of restaurants and festivals and havent’ changed any rodent control, a ‘recipe’ for disaster.
    ALSO, this was my objection to Alderman considering allowing farmyard animals. Anyone who lives near the Chicken Farm behind Kennedy School would agree. Chicken food/droppings attract rodents. and now the City thinks we should encourage poultry farms. I saw a rat crossing right in front of a school, def. more than a lb.

  24. amen says:

    Harry Dunn-great point. without some advance planning, tearing that thing down will explode the area with rats. Anyone think there’ll be some advance planning?

  25. Mariana says:

    Advance planning? You’re right that when the transfer station is demolished, the pricey Brickbottom and surrounding areas will be overrun. Wait until they start digging in Union Square, which is already overrun. But the city doesn’t need to plan, because when they end up on or in your property, the city and developers agree that it is your fault and your responsibility to deal with it. Even if it were your fault, this can’t be dealt with piecemeal. It needs a serious, city-wide approach which no one wants to talk about. And covering your barrels isn’t going to do it, especially when dumpsters and city barrels all over the city aren’t doing the same, and dogs are running free in all of our beautiful parks. They’ll be calling us Slummerville again.

  26. Steve Keenan says:


    I get the feeling you don’t like yuppies. Even yuppies need love. God bless you, brother.

  27. Harry says:


    I probably make more money then most CA yuppies, but that is not the point! I’m living in the family house that was passed down to me. I’m not displacing anybody. I’m not soaked with the silly PC ideas that messed up CA. And I don’t feel I’m superior to my fellow Villens. I’m here to stay and I want the people who have been living here for a long time to be able to stay here, not getting displaced by outsiders who are just destroying the community.

  28. Brian K. says:

    There are so many rats in East Somerville that they are turning up as road kill on a regular basis. I’ve had to hurdle a couple during jogs. They are huge and I see them in the middle of the day all the time!

  29. Anna says:

    Watched a rat in my backyard this morning. It was still early, but well past the time that the sun came up. This was never an issue in our residential neighborhood in between Davis and Porter, but in talking with my neighbors it is apparently becoming a common occurrence. There is too much constant development going on, too much digging everywhere. Also, the city needs to get rid of the open trash containers in the parks and the bike path. I can cover my trash all I want, but when I walk through the park and onto the bike path on Saturday or Sunday night, and the barrels are overflowing with food and dog poop, I think ‘what’s the point’? They need to replace the fancy wrought iron with rodent-proof trash containers because this problem is getting out of hand and will start driving out the yuppies whom the mayor loves so much.

  30. Harry says:

    If the rats will drive the yuppies outta Somerville, then the rats are my friends! Fellow rats, let’s do it!!!

  31. Dana says:

    Seems the media is now focusing on the infestation of rats in East Somerville. I mean honestly you can walk past some places on Broadway, especially after the construction and smell their dead carcasses. What should happen is that all the food businesses should be inspected, or better yet maybe I’ll just not eat at another Somerville restaurant.

    The construction has unearthed their nests, the abandonded buildings are their shelters and breeding grounds. Somerville is a nice place, but it’s pretty unclean. You either dodging dog poop, or just plain filth. Cross Street is pretty disgusting and the residents their could care less.

  32. Townie says:

    Anna, Harry, Dana, you are all spot on! I live near the bike path and the overflowing trash containers on the weekends are disgusting. They are also overflowing with food and other trash in the park, which is why people are beginning to see rats in the park as well. It is mainly due to the construction everywhere, but it is also true that I have never seen this city dirtier than it is right now. King Joe doesn’t seem to care how the city looks to us peasants, as long as it looks good when the festival-goers, musicians,or runners descend. Mayor Capuano wouldn’t let so much as a yard sale sign remain on a city tree or post. This situation doesn’t look like it will get better any time soon.

  33. Boston Kate says:

    “and the residents their could care less.”

    You mean the residents ‘there’ ‘couldn’t’ care less. The absentee landlords are the ones that don’t give a damn, not the owners-in-residence.

  34. suck on it Kate says:

    I truly hate when someone corrects a minor spelling error instead of : A, letting it go, knowing everyone slips up or has damned auto correct. or B. focusing on their/there point. I think we all knew the meaning without your specious (look that up) corrections.

  35. Somerbreeze says:

    Good article. Matt McLaughlin will have his hands full with this issue in East Somerville alone…

    Matt, get your Pied Piper on!

  36. gloria says:

    why do we PAY so much property taxes each year if the city of slummerville desnt help the residents there get after that mayor PROTEST if you need too yell a little louder DEMAND to be heard COME ON even if you need to put out POISON or TRAPS if thats the only way take matters in your own hands do it i grew up in somerville it was great back then

  37. Boston Kate says:

    Suck on it, suck on it Kate. They didn’t make a point. They said that people ‘could care less’, implying that there is still room to care. Wah, wah. Suck on that.

  38. Richelle says:

    Chris Birch, I walked past the Mount Vernon a few weeks ago, as I do three days a week. There was a large dead rat right in the middle of the street. I’m glad you missed it, because it was disgusting.

  39. Darnell says:

    I’m told there are rats up at City Hall. Anyone seen any. If there aren’t, then maybe we can find out what the City does to keep rats out of City Hall. But I’m told that there is some vermin at City Hall.

  40. Pixie Pocahontas says:

    The next master plan of our illustrious mayor is sterilization of all rats, as implemented by NY city, a day late and always a dollar short. The reason for rats is ongoing development of multiple projects. Many have lived by the Mystic River. The tab should be on developers and it’s the city administration who are ultimately responsible for the safety and health of our citizens when it comes to rat infestation at pandemic proportions.

  41. Pixie Pocahontas says:


    You are right, there are big rats at City Hall, but they don’t run on fours.

  42. ritepride says:

    They should have the state come in, declare that it is so bad all food establishments in effected areas will be closed till it is corrected. Then the resulting lawsuits from the food establishments against the mayor and other officials, liens on their homes and investment portfolios. Then you will see action.

    Time for all the free ride$ for the developer$ to $TOP.

  43. Cross Street says:

    Well it’s time for the Annual Somerville Running of The Rats. Saw one dashing across Cross Street in the middle of the day, while a resident smiled and walked his doggie!! Now let’s see when this will get some attention, which television station has to cover this epidemic? Whose child has to be bitten while outside playing. What if the rat had decided to attack the doggie that was’t much bigger than it.

    It always takes someone getting hurt or worse before action is really taken. Somerville officials need to stop talking and actually do something. No, wait for the Bubonic Plague to make it’s reoccurance in good ol’ Somerville.

  44. bob says:

    This article was originally posted in June, 2013. Almost a year ago. What has been done since then? What has changed? As usual, a lot of talk, but not followed up with action.

  45. Hinckley Street says:

    They are on Hinckley Street too–saw them a few months ago. My alderman seems to be too busy with Lowell Street to care even with the emails and 311 calls that me and my neighbors have made. I am not worried and neither are they…2015 is right around the corner.

  46. A. Moore says:

    For a second I thought it was election time again when I saw running of the rats. Figured it was just another reason to shut down the city again. At least it’s not so bad as it is only the 4 legged kind.

  47. Somerbreeze says:

    A Running of the Rats would be a great benefit to cover the costs of envelope-printing for the Dah Envelope Puhleeze Program at City Hall!

    This could become a great local annual event, with all vehicular traffic banned, especially fire trucks, ambulances and The Ride. To amp the event, Ms. Confetti could make lots of conflicting robo-calls to residents. Oh, the joy!

    Better put in your orders for rat costumes at Boston Costume; they’ll be flying off the shelves in short order!

  48. Boss Jonny says:

    Rats will be squashed by Goran the Terrible! :)

  49. Pixie Pocahontas says:

    The only rats we need to worry about cannot be driven out as easily as those living in dumpsters and by the mystic.

  50. Hinckley Street says:

    Some of us have to deal with this issue on a daily basis. I really don’t appreciate your disregard. Save your BS for another post. My alderman does nothing. Someone–anyone–please help!!

  51. Aldo Del Topo says:

    Squeak! Squeak! Rat invasion… :)

  52. A.Moore says:

    When I get nowhere with my alderman I move up to alderman at large. So far this has worked for response.

  53. Pixie Pocahontas says:

    Do what the union guys are doing by the job site by Lechmere. Protest with a large sign illustrating a giant rat and hang out at city hall, I’m sure that will get attention. Don’t forget to call all the news stations and local press before you arrive. Then again don’t call the press, just surprise them and bring as many residents, friends and family you can bring. Hand out flyers on street corners, residents of other wards will come. Call the statehouse and make some noise. One thing they don’t like is negative publicity. Do assembly row occupants want rats for new customers or part of their new condo landscape? It’s only across the street from Broadway, rats can travel.

  54. Aldo Del Topo says:

    I go directly to Goran the Rat Destroya! :)

  55. Ratking says:


    You should be welcoming the CA yuppies. It is their ideals that will help repair this shattered excuse for a town we call East Somerville. It sounds like the people who have been living here all this time ARE the problem, you let stuff sit around long enough and dont clean up the properties that you worked so hard to get passed down to you. Well done.

  56. annie says:

    Publicity is a good idea. Remember a few years ago when there was a mouse infestation at one of our brand new schools? A story in the Herald prompted by parents had a huge impact!
    Hinckley Street, it’s a sad situation. But it’s hard to be bothered with the constituents when you are so busy trying to build up your retirement. Being bounced from that city job a few years back sure didn’t help with the nest egg building! On to 2015……..

Leave a Reply