homeowner and exterminator battling and giant rat in staten island, ny
Illustration John Cuneo
“They were as big as cats!” says homeowner Frances Gaglione of the rats that were scuttling across her patio.
In the 2007 film Ratatouille, a likable animated rat named Remy achieves his improbable dream of opening a restaurant in the heart of Paris. (Leave it to Disney and the French to make rodents seem appealing.) Usually restaurants with rats are cringe-worthy enough, but what happens if you spot the critters setting up camp right outside your house? Fear not, homeowners: Just put your local ­exterminator on the case, as this family did.

The Client: Frances Gaglione, who lives with her husband and 5-year-old son in a semidetached townhouse with a concrete patio in Staten Island, New York.

The Crisis: Four-legged furry creatures, but not the kind we want around. “They were as big as cats!” says Gaglione. “We have a sliding glass door, and at night, I would see them running by. We were trapped in our house. My neighbor had them, too. I’d hear these screams. And he’s an older man with a heart condition! We’d call each other, and look outside from our upstairs windows. And I’d say to him, ‘I don’t think that’s a cat!’” There’s no delicate way to put it: Gaglione had a rat problem.

The Pro Steps In: “Frances was frantic when she called, so we came over the same day,” says Vincent Errante of Universal Pest Control, who’s been getting rid of all kinds of unwanted household pests for 10 years. His first order of business was inspecting the property to identify where the rats were living and eating. “Her interior looked fine,” he says. “But outside, I encountered a dead rat on her lawn. I saw garbage in a wooded area across the street, and figured that’s where they came from. And I saw activity in the neighbor’s yard, too.” Errante noticed other telltale signs of an infestation on Gaglione’s property: droppings, gnaw marks on the concrete patio, burrowing in the patio and lawn, and gray rub marks on the side of the house, caused by the oils in the rats’ skin. It was those signs that led him to the nesting area. “I followed the burrows and rub marks to the neighbor’s deck. The rats were living underneath it, climbing into the neighbor’s pool to drink, feeding on the bird feeder, and reproducing. It looked like it had been happening for about a month.”
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