Rodent Prevention FAQ

Rats are an unpleasant nuisance in all urban areas. Below are frequently asked questions about rats in our community.

1. If I see a rat, what should I do?

If you spot a rat inside or outside your home, please report it to the West Allis Health Department. Please provide your name, phone number, address, and the address of the sighting if the rat was spotted outside of your home.

2. What will the Health Department do if I report a rat? 

The West Allis Health Department will provide tips and educational information on preventing rats in and around your home, and recommend the strategies you can implement to deter rats. The Health Department cannot provide extermination services, but can use enforcement and issue orders to properties that are contributing to the problem. Property owners may seek extermination services at their own expense.

3. Are rat sightings on the rise?

Reported rat sightings have been on the rise in recent years, due to several variables. The warmer, milder weather throughout the seasons has given rats more efficient living conditions, which support breeding. There has also been more awareness of rodents, which leads to more reports.

4. Do vacant properties attract rats? 

Habited, maintained properties tend to attract rats because these properties provide resources like food, water, and shelter. Well-kept homes with gardens, bird-baths, ground cover, and other outdoor amenities can attract unwanted rodents in addition to other animals.

 5. Do rats live in sewers?

No, however they will congregate and travel in the sewer system. Rats live in burrows and build their burrows in areas they deem safe and food-secure. Rats prefer to burrow in soft dirt, many times next to or along a foundation of a garage or retaining wall, or under a shed, deck or covered porch. Residents are encouraged to take necessary steps in preventing rats, such as keeping their yards clean and free of debris.

6. Does the City trap or bait rats? 

The City does not trap rats. Due to federal grant funding received in 2022 and 2023, the Health Department has joined forced with Orkin Pest Control to provide limited bait stations along public right of ways in a few areas with very high rodent activity. This grant funding is not guaranteed from year to year. As it becomes available, the City will work to identify areas with high activity levels that also meet other criteria for temporary bait station placement. The most effective rat abatement solutions tend to be action taken from residents themselves.

7. Can I have a bird feeder or bird bath? 

Bird feeders and bird baths are welcome in the City of West Allis, but can attract rats. Bird baths offer rats a source of drinking water, and rats will climb up to bird feeders to feed from them, or can be attracted by spilled seed on the ground. If you choose to provide food or water for birds, City ordinance requires cleaning spilled birdseed from the ground each day. Residents are also encouraged to empty bird baths and bring bird feeders in at night, when rats are most active. If rats are spotted in your area, stop feeding the birds.

8. We had a rat sighting in our yard, and I'd like to put out rat poison. Can I do this?

There are no City ordinances forbidding the use of pesticides in private yards. However, residents must take caution as stray animals, pets, and unsupervised children may come in contact with the poison. The first step in rat abatement should always be identifying what attracted rats to the area and then eliminating sources of food, water, or shelter. Rats will continue to infest areas that offer them secure living conditions. When using pesticides/rodenticides, always read the manufacturer's labels and follow the directions for placement and usage.

9. How far do rats travel from their nest?

Rats tend to travel between 100 feet and 300 feet from their nests to search for more nest-building materials and food. 

10. How long does a wild rat live?

Wild rats live an average of 1-2 years, given the prevalence of predators in their environment. Whether they live in cities or out in the country, rats face predators everywhere, such as birds, cats, and much more.