Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said the village contracted an exterminator who gassed the...

Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said the village contracted an exterminator who gassed the rat burrows with carbon monoxide after brush was cleared from Long Island Rail Road tracks east of Merritts Road. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Rat burrows along the Long Island Rail Road tracks in Farmingdale were gassed last week as the village tries to eradicate an infestation that officials said generated complaints from residents of an adjacent condo development.

“We finally got to the root of the problem,” Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said in an interview. The village’s contracted exterminator “ went in and they gassed all the burrows,” he said.

Friday’s treatment behind the Stratford Green condo development was the second at the site since the Metropolitan Transportation Authority cleared out brush and overgrown grass along the tracks in mid-November, Ekstrand said. The exterminator will evaluate whether a third treatment is necessary, he said.

“There’s such a rat problem along the railroad tracks,” he said, adding that it had taken about four months to get the MTA to clear the area.

An MTA spokeswoman wrote in an email Monday that, “The MTA is assessing the possibility and need to perform rodent mitigation” but that it has not seen “a noticeable increase in rats.”

Farmingdale trustee materials posted on the village website said Stratford Green had set traps but their efforts to deal with the rat problem “to date has not been successful.”

Ekstrand said residents of the condo development — which has about 90 units — had contacted the village about the rats.

“They reported it to us and asked for our help,” he said.

Attempts to reach the Stratford Green homeowners association and its property management company were unsuccessful Monday.

The condos, which are off Conklin Street, are near Merritts Road where there are several restaurants.

Matt Frye, a senior extension associate with Cornell Cooperative Extension who works on the New York State Integrated Pest Management program in upstate Geneva, said the pandemic shutdowns caused rats to migrate from commercial areas.

“What was observed during the pandemic was that as those locations closed and food became less available, rodent populations sort of followed where the food was,” Frye said. “That ended up being residential areas.”

Rats found predictable food sources where before they may not have had reason to venture, officials said.

“Because those areas were not used to dealing with rats they may not have the practices in place to eliminate refuse in a way that is efficient enough to not feed the rats,” Frye said. “The big challenge is always finding what those rats are feeding on and addressing that through more frequent removal of trash or better containment of trash so they don’t have a predictable food resource to feed on.”

Mike Deutsch, a consultant with Lynbrook-based Arrow Exterminating Company Inc., said carbon monoxide was pumped in the burrows to kill the rats. It was unclear whether the dead rats would be removed.

“It puts the rats to sleep, painlessly,” Deutsch said of the carbon monoxide.

The train track can be a good environment for rats to flourish, he said.

“Typically along rights of ways and along railroad tracks where debris accumulates, it attracts rats, like any garbage,” Deutsch said.

Deutsch said that during the COVID-19 pandemic the company saw an increase in first-time calls for rat extermination as the rodents went in search of food.

“Rats are in the environment,” he said. “They exist because of people, they live off the trash and garbage that are produced by people.”

Ekstrand said who pays the cost of the extermination, estimated to be in the thousands of dollars, will be determined later with the condo homeowners association.

Rat burrows along the Long Island Rail Road tracks in Farmingdale were gassed last week as the village tries to eradicate an infestation that officials said generated complaints from residents of an adjacent condo development.

“We finally got to the root of the problem,” Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said in an interview. The village’s contracted exterminator “ went in and they gassed all the burrows,” he said.

Friday’s treatment behind the Stratford Green condo development was the second at the site since the Metropolitan Transportation Authority cleared out brush and overgrown grass along the tracks in mid-November, Ekstrand said. The exterminator will evaluate whether a third treatment is necessary, he said.

“There’s such a rat problem along the railroad tracks,” he said, adding that it had taken about four months to get the MTA to clear the area.

An MTA spokeswoman wrote in an email Monday that, “The MTA is assessing the possibility and need to perform rodent mitigation” but that it has not seen “a noticeable increase in rats.”

Farmingdale trustee materials posted on the village website said Stratford Green had set traps but their efforts to deal with the rat problem “to date has not been successful.”

Ekstrand said residents of the condo development — which has about 90 units — had contacted the village about the rats.

“They reported it to us and asked for our help,” he said.

Attempts to reach the Stratford Green homeowners association and its property management company were unsuccessful Monday.

The condos, which are off Conklin Street, are near Merritts Road where there are several restaurants.

Matt Frye, a senior extension associate with Cornell Cooperative Extension who works on the New York State Integrated Pest Management program in upstate Geneva, said the pandemic shutdowns caused rats to migrate from commercial areas.

“What was observed during the pandemic was that as those locations closed and food became less available, rodent populations sort of followed where the food was,” Frye said. “That ended up being residential areas.”

Rats found predictable food sources where before they may not have had reason to venture, officials said.

“Because those areas were not used to dealing with rats they may not have the practices in place to eliminate refuse in a way that is efficient enough to not feed the rats,” Frye said. “The big challenge is always finding what those rats are feeding on and addressing that through more frequent removal of trash or better containment of trash so they don’t have a predictable food resource to feed on.”

Mike Deutsch, a consultant with Lynbrook-based Arrow Exterminating Company Inc., said carbon monoxide was pumped in the burrows to kill the rats. It was unclear whether the dead rats would be removed.

“It puts the rats to sleep, painlessly,” Deutsch said of the carbon monoxide.

The train track can be a good environment for rats to flourish, he said.

“Typically along rights of ways and along railroad tracks where debris accumulates, it attracts rats, like any garbage,” Deutsch said.

Deutsch said that during the COVID-19 pandemic the company saw an increase in first-time calls for rat extermination as the rodents went in search of food.

“Rats are in the environment,” he said. “They exist because of people, they live off the trash and garbage that are produced by people.”

Ekstrand said who pays the cost of the extermination, estimated to be in the thousands of dollars, will be determined later with the condo homeowners association.

KEEP RATS AT BAY

There are steps that can be taken to eliminate food sources for rats:

• More frequent trash removals

• Better trash containment

Source: Matt Frye of Cornell Cooperative Extension