Mystery: Local rat sightings plummet

WASHINGTON – Property owners in parts of Maryland might be smiling, but experts are scratching their heads, stumped by a steep downward trend in rat complaints.

“In 2008 we had 568 complaints,” says Clark Beil, senior administrator with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services.

“In 2009 it was around 400.”

The number of reports in the county peaked around the turn of the century. Since then, the figures have been plummeting each year.

“Between 2009 and 2013, the numbers of complaints have dropped precipitously,” says Beil.

There were around 167 complaints in 2012. With only weeks left in 2013, the county has received just 100 complaints about rats. That is a dip of more than 90 percent when compared to 2004, when the complaint figure reached 1,700.

Officials are puzzled. They cannot point to a concrete factor that would explain the rapid drop. They can only theorize about possible environmental factors and greater vigilance among property owners.

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