LYNN, Mass. (AP) — No good deed goes unpunished.
That was what one Waitt Road resident found out when her efforts to feed the area's wildlife led to a rat infestation in the neighborhood.
Ward 2 Councilor Rick Starbard said he was notified of the problem two months ago by multiple neighbors. Only in the past couple of weeks has the infestation calmed down due to mitigation efforts.
"The infestation is the cause of one very sweet, well-intentioned lady who not only had multiple bird feeders around her property, but also dumped peanuts in her yard to feed other animals," Starbard wrote in his Ward 2 newsletter.
In an interview with The Item, he said both the bird feeders that were easily accessible to rodents on the side of the woman's garage and peanuts dumped from trash barrels into her yard attracted so many rats that they started to take over the otherwise neat, single-family neighborhood. The rats were trying to get into houses by burrowing deep holes around the foundations.
"To her, the animals are like her kids," Starbard said. "She was trying to feed every animal she could. She thought she was being helpful to them."
Starbard reported the complaints to the city's Inspectional Services Department, and inspectors responded. To mitigate the problem, the city put black bait boxes around the property, which are designed to attract rats. When the rats go into the box to eat the bait, it kills them, he said.
The woman was also advised to use bird feeders that squirrels and other rodents can't get to, so the contents won't spill onto the ground, he said.
The rodent issue in that neighborhood is not unique — rats are a problem throughout the city, Starbard said. They're everywhere — they're in the middle of the city, in the Highlands, and wooded areas, he said.
The rodents have become such a nuisance that Lynn Woods Ranger Dan Small advised residents at a recent Ward 2 neighborhood meeting against feeding wildlife, such as birds, squirrels and racoons, because rats often go for the food as well, according to Starbard.
Since it's been quiet lately, Starbard is hopeful the neighborhood's filthy problem is on its way to being resolved.
"It makes me itchy every time I talk about it," he said.