Sacramento trying to kill packs of enormous rats that infested city lot near downtown

The city of Sacramento has started exterminating more than 100 rats that have infested a vacant lot in Sacramento’s River District where the city plans to build a new fire station.

Many homeless encampments typically line the lot, located on Ahern Street between North A and North B streets, causing city officials to worry the rats could also cause a health crisis.

City Councilman Jeff Harris, who represents the River District, alerted city officials to the problem in late August, after hearing about it from a man who lives at Quinn Cottages across the street, he said.

“I was pretty shocked when I went out there,” Harris said. “It’s well known that rats can bear a lot of diseases, so they are a potential health hazard. The fact that there are people living on the street means there are food items on the street and those are definitely attractive to rats.”

On Tuesday, a city contractor laid about 40 mechanical rat traps, said city spokesman Tim Swanson. The traps do not use poison.

“The city is taking every possible action to resolve this as quickly as we can and restore public safety and health,” Assistant City Manager Chris Conlin said.

City officials asked campers to vacate the streets around the perimeter of the lot starting Saturday and have fenced off parts of certain streets from campers without blocking access to business in the area, Swanson said.

On Tuesday morning, several homeless men and women told The Sacramento Bee they were grateful the city was exterminating the rats.

“It was getting ridiculous out here,” said Labrandon Grayson. “I’m glad we’re getting rid of them.”

Gerald Banks, another camper, agreed.

“If you got food, they’re gonna come,” Banks said. “You gotta be careful they don’t get too close to you.”

Diseases such as Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, rat-bite fever and salmonellosis can be directly transmitted by rats, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The city is paying a contractor about $3,700 for the abatement, Swanson said.

The property has been vacant for years, but city officials have never heard of or exterminated a rat infestation there before, Conlin said.

Rats also infested some downtown Sacramento areas earlier this summer, including the courtyard outside the California EPA building.

Construction on the fire station could begin this fall, Swanson said.

Bee photographer Lezlie Sterling contributed to this report.

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Theresa Clift covers Sacramento City Hall. Before joining The Bee in 2018, she worked as a local government reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Daily Press in Virginia and the Wausau Daily Herald in Wisconsin. She grew up in Michigan and graduated from Central Michigan University.