The Portland City Council heard 20 minutes of public comment Wednesday night about a recent infestation of rats at Harbor View Memorial Park.

News Center Maine reported last week that the city was working to get rid of the rats, but did not say how many there were or how they got there.

The city cleared a large homeless encampment at the park on Jan. 2. Nearby residents and businesses had complained that the large encampment was growing out of control. Months earlier, the city responded to a Hepatitis A outbreak within the homeless community.

Over the past week, rumors have circulated that the rats living in Harbor View are not wild, but domesticated pets.

Olivia Wilcox-Ames, 27, who lives near the park, has been instrumental in organizing a group of volunteers to rescue and foster the rats in Harbor View. Over the past week, Ames and other volunteers have taken at least 18 rats to veterinary clinics where, she says, vets have confirmed that the rats are domesticated.

“These are varieties that can only occur after years of breeding,” said Ames. She expressed concern that these domestic rats are dying inhumanely, and also that the poison used to kill them is bad for the ecosystem.


“These poisons are so impactful to our environment, we are right by the water. Wild rats generally know how to go and hide and die in the wild, these rats don’t. These rats are laying dead out and open in the park for cats and dogs to find,” she said.

“Just please rescind the poison boxes long enough for the 150 people who are volunteers to go in and get these rats out of there,” she said before the council.

After public comment, Councilor Roberto Rodriguez asked City Manager Danielle West for more information on the rats and how the situation is being managed.

West said the city has been working with a contractor to get rid of the rats through “a variety of methods that are EPA compliant.” She said the city has asked the contractor to use other methods that do not rely on rat poison, which will reportedly be implemented in the coming days. West said the contractor the city is working with believes the rats to be wild.

Councilor Kate Sykes asked if the city would consider opening a police report if they discover the rats are indeed domesticated, indicating that someone dumped them there. West said legal action by the city is unlikely.

Before the meeting, the council held a last-minute executive session to discuss security protocols at City Hall.


The council took no action after the session and the mayor and councilors who attended the meeting declined to discuss what was said.

Corporation Council Michael Goldman said in an email Wednesday evening that the meeting was first requested by Councilor April Fournier shortly after the shootings in Lewiston, but had been rescheduled several times. He also declined to discuss specifics of the session.

In other action, the council approved a one-year extension of the union contract for the Portland police. The contract allows for a 4% cost of living pay increase to superior officers starting July 7.

Early in the meeting, Councilor Regina Phillips made an announcement, that Jim Devine, an advocate for the homeless who frequently attends council meetings, had been hit by a car shortly before Christmas. He reportedly remains in the hospital where he is recovering. The council discussed Devine’s work for several minutes during the meeting and the mayor suggested that the group send him something.

“He’s just a fabulous individual who really cares about the folks here,” said Phillips. “He’s a strong advocate and deserves out support.”

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