The Dukes County Rodent Control Program was reactivated in June 2001 after multiple requests from the Island selectmen and intensive research by County Manager Carol Borer and Executive Assistant Marsha Smolev.
As far as we know, we can trace the beginning of the Rodent Control Program back to 1944 when Mrs. Wilfred O. White and several friends in the Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club, concerned about food production and fish left overnight on the fishing boats, contacted the United States Department of the Interior, Division of Predator and Rodent Control, which in turn sent Federal agent Robert Borge to lay out a rat control program. The Garden Club appropriated $300 to establish the program.
About 1946 the Dukes County Commissioners became interested and decided to make it a Countywide project, with a budget of $3,190. (That’s approximately $29,588.95 in today’s dollars.) AT that time, the year-round population was approximately 5,000 and summer population 40,000. Louis M. Greene, Benjamin F. Abbott and John Black were its operators.
Louis M. Greene stayed with the program, along with Jacqueline A. Greene until 1980. His number one operator and successor Arnold M. Fischer joined the program in 1970 and along with his wife, Priscilla, served the Dukes County Rodent Control Program for 21 _ years until the program was ended in 1992. Arnold M. Fischer stated in 1992: “When the rats get out of control in the near future, I hope the County Commissioners will reinstate the program for the good of the people of Martha’s Vineyard.”
The Commissioners did reinstate the program in 1996 with John Tucker as its operator. Mr. Tucker died unexpectedly in 1998 and the program faded away.
Since the State mandate to cap the Island landfills, the Island’s abundant natural food sources, the unlimited supply of bird food, the increased year-round (14,208) and summer (105,624) populations and lack of natural predators, the rodents are again making a remarkable negative impact on our Island.
The Dukes County Rodent Control program of today offers a broader range of information and control methods than in 1944. I use a new program based on Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM can reduce the quantity of chemical rodenticides entering the environment and can save money. IPM is based on taking preventive measures, assessing the rodent damage and choosing appropriate actions, including cultural practices, chemical rodenticides, glue boards, traps, physical barriers and general public information and education.
Further, I am cooperating with Sam R. Telford III, D.Sc., Harvard School of Public Health, and Dr. Catherine Feldman of the Center for Disease Control, in their ongoing Island-wide investigation and research regarding the host of pulmonic tularemia.
The Dukes County Rodent Control office is located in the new County Administration Building at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport.
The cooperation of all is needed for our continued success. At the first sign of a rat or a mouse, please phone T.J. Hegarty, Dukes County Rodent Control Officer, at 508-696-4888.
Ending, I quote Charles G. Norton, 1978 Chairman of the Dukes County Rat Control Program: “It is not a ‘shame’ to have rats; but it is a ‘shame’ to keep them, when the Dukes County Rodent Control Program is ready to help.”