Somerville deploys 50 lethal electric traps to deal with growing rat problem

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“This is sort of a rodent superhighway.”

An electric rat trap is seen along the bike path in Somerville. This week the city distributed 50 so-called SMART Boxes across four areas as part of an effort to curb the city’s rodent problem. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Somerville has been dealing with an increased presence of furry friends, and not the fun kind.

“We’ve noticed a general uptick in sightings,” the city’s “rat czar” Colin Zeigler, said in an interview with NBC 10 Boston. “This is sort of a rodent superhighway.”

Somerville is dealing with the rodent problem through the use of 50 lethal traps placed across four neighborhoods.

Each trap uses electric currents to electrocute the rats and then place them into a bagged container inside each device. Zeigler said these traps are much more humane than poison bait and sticky traps. These traps should also be harmless to humans.

Zeigler said the program will take place over the course of five months and cost $40,000.

The amount of rodent control assistance baiting programs in Somerville increased from 149 in 2018 to 547 in 2020 and 356 in the first four months of 2021 alone, according to the city’s website.

The uptick at the beginning of the pandemic is, unfortunately, a largely common phenomenon in larger cities.

New York City saw an increase of 6,000 rodent incident 311 calls over the same period in 2019 and 2020, and a “plague of rats” was added to the list of pandemic problems.

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