by Nicole Compton

2008 may have been the Year of the Rat in the Chinese lunar calendar, but it has lasted well into 2010 for many teachers and campus residents.

The infestation has yet to be addressed as a serious problem, but the recurring appearances of rats and mice might warrant further investigation.

Teachers Jasmine Love, Martin Byhower, Sandra Piercy and Trish Stevens, along with the entire Global Language department, have had their share of interactions with the rodents most of us despise as potential carriers of the plague.

Jasmine Love, the Director of Multiculturalism and Inclusion, has seen field mice and rats in her office.

Love prefers to use peppermint, instead of deadly repellents, to ward off the animals humanely. She sprinkles dried peppermint behind her furniture seems to ward off the rodents.

“Catnip smells a lot like mint, so if a mouse smells mint, they may think a cat is around” said Love. “That is why if you come to my office it smells very fresh and very minty.”

Martin Byhower, a Middle School science teacher and head of Ecommunity, explains that the rats he has experienced on campus are either the Brown or Black Rat.  These rats are non-native species and the only mammals more numerous than humans in this area.

Byhower is not scared of the rats but is rather frustrated with their tendency to strip the bark off his plants.

“If we didn’t leave food around, or if we allowed coyotes and owls more freedom to repopulate the area, they would be less of a problem,” said Byhower.

History teacher Sandra Piercy and science teacher Trish Stevens have not had problems with the rodents this year but have had their experiences in past years by these unwelcome guests.

Last year, the chemistry room became a nesting place for rats, but the problem was resolved for this school year.

Fifteen years ago, Piercy’s unit where she used to live on campus was invaded.

“I set humane traps and removed at least one mouse per day,” Piercy said.

Appearances in Laverty Arts Center have also occurred. Leslie Miller, the dance and cheer coach, has already caught three mice in her room this year.

These rats have appeared in several locations on different parts of the campus, making it difficult to define a reason for their presence.

Of all of these locations, though, the Global Language Department experienced a major plague of mice last year and at the beginning of this year.

“[Larry] Clement even tried to keep one last year. He was against killing the rats, so he found one and named it Freddy,” said Global Languages Co-Chair and French teacher JoAnn Wund. “Everyone else tried to kill Freddy with the broom.”

Love screamed at the thought of rats invading her office. Maintenance workers found a pregnant rat hiding there. And, soon after that, multiple mice were running around the area.

The Global Languages Department ordered a deep cleaning a few weeks ago and since then has not seen any sign of Freddy and his family.

“We all are happy that he is probably dead, but Mr. Clement still hopes that Freddy is alive,” said Wund.

Despite the distaste of many for the presence of rats, Love and Byhower believe that humanity’s general attitude toward this rodent population is grossly uncalled for and exaggerated.

Byhower explains that the rats in our area very rarely carry disease and are actually extremely smart creatures.

“Animals are never guilty of being ‘evil’ and can’t be blamed for merely trying to survive,” said Byhower. “Rats do especially well because, in part, they are highly intelligent. Disease transmission by rodents in our area is extremely rare.”

Love questions why children are less afraid of pet hamsters than of pet rats, when rats actually make better companions and even have fewer instances of biting their owners.

Love advocates for the use of Chadwick’s core values when dealing with these rodents. “As a community we can embrace the rat, and include him or her at least in the way we have respect and compassion for others,” said Love.

“I don’t mean that we have to include them in our offices and homes, but in our minds as sentient beings worthy of respect.”

It seems as if Chadwick may be taking tentative steps toward accepting these rodents as members of this community.

Those who look to other animals for help with the rodent infestation might have taken some comfort that 2010 is the Year of the Tiger. But next year? The Year of the Rabbit, which begins on Feb. 3, may bring new overpopulation problems of its own.