MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Court Square is an island of peace sitting smack in the middle of Downtown Memphis. It's a place where people can take a moment to relax, to get in touch with nature, a place where it’s just the grass, the sky, and quiet moments… to watch the rats. “It’s pretty bad,” says Daniel Daguirre of Memphis. “You see three or four of them at a time. Around the gazebo you see quite a few of them.”
We had been told the rat problem was bad in Court Square. When people learned we were looking for rats, some of them told us to go to Memphis City Hall. Most of them said sit down and relax, the rats will come to you. “I see a couple of them all the time,” says Ken Abbott. “One of them goes from one bush to another. There’s another group on the other end. It’s really not that bad.”
Really? Well it’s true, the rats aren’t panhandling. They’re not asking people for spare pieces of cheese. One woman who eats lunch in Court Square every day says all this rat talk surprised her. “I’ve never seen one,” she said. “Not one.” She apparently isn’t looking. “There’s more than one in here,” Daniel Dagjuirre said. “A lot more.”
It’s no secret that Memphis has a pretty high rat population. Check your Memphis Light Gas and Water bill next time you see it. Every month people pay a certain amount for something called Vector Control. When it was first put on the bill, more than a decade ago, it was called “The Rat Tax.” Memphis sits on the Mississippi River, and rats are always around water. For rats, Memphis is like Club Med.
Someone told us if we stayed in the park long enough we’d see them, and we did. The Downtown Memphis Commission admits rats have been a problem in Court Square for years. They limit the amount of events where food is involved, and plead with people not to bring bread or popcorn into the park to feed the birds and squirrels. Traps had been set up to take care of the rats, but a few squirrels were also killed at the time.
Mayor A C Wharton’s staff was informed about the trouble, and say that the Health Department’s Vector Control group has been informed to take care of the problem. Meanwhile the Memphis Rat Pack meets downtown at Court Square every day.