ROXBURY, NJ – One of the first subdivisions in Roxbury is being “overrun” by rats this summer, according to two residents who complained this week to the township Mayor and Council.

The problem is taking place in the Old Sunrise development south of Horseshoe Lake Park and east of Eyland Avenue, according to residents Mark Pontura and John Jones. Old Sunrise consists largely of small ranch houses built in the mid-1950s on former farmland.

Pontura said he never saw a rat, or even a mouse, in the 13 years he’s lived on Carol Drive. But that changed drastically last month, he told the town officials.

Sign Up for E-News

“We are overrun over in Sunrise,” he said, adding he first noticed the rampant rodents on July 3. Since then, he’s killed seven and another resident, on nearby Morgan Drive, “apparently killed 12,” Pontura said.

” On the evening of July 3rd, I’m watering my lawn about 8 o’clock at night and I see a rat running across the back corner of the yard,” Pontura said. “So, on July 4th I go out in the morning and what I see staring back at me is a rat.”

He said the animals continued to make their presence known. “Over the next week, I see a rat again. And one morning I see two,” Pontura said. When a neighbor contacted the Roxbury Health Department, he was told the rodents are “indigenous to the land,” Pontura added.

In an interview today, Roxbury Township Manager John Shepherd said representatives of the Health Department inspected the neighborhood in mid-July after receiving complaints. He said the inspectors visited about 70 properties.

“They found a handful of locations where there actually were rat burrows,” Shepherd said, suggesting that describing the problem as being an infestation would be exaggeration.

Concerned About Communication

He noted the township doesn’t usually get involved in ridding properties of rats and other nuisance animals. It does advise property owners to hire exterminators, something that a number of the Sunrise residents did and others are “in the process” of doing, according to Shepherd

The township sends letterspdf to residents in areas where a rat problem occurs, said the manager. The letters “advise people to be careful” about not providing the rodents with food, including bird seed, Shepherd said.

At the Tuesday meeting, Roxbury Councilman Robert DeFillippo said he was concerned not only about the rat problem but also about Pontura’s assertion of mixed messages coming from the township.

“Just as troubling to me as what you’re describing is the lack of communication,” DeFillippo said. “Some people are getting some information and others are not. We need to get a handle on what’s going on there and then have a specific town response.”

Pontura contended Health Department Environmental Health Specialist Matt Zachok told him the entire township has a rat problem. “That’s one of the most irresponsible things I ever heard,” DeFillippo said. His colleagues on the council said they were aware of no town-wide problem, but Roxbury Councilwoman Jaki Albrecht said she has a friend in Old Sunrise who has killed four of the rodents.

Shephard, today, said he believes Pontura misunderstood Zachok.

“I think what Matt was trying to say was this issue could happen anywhere,” Shepherd said. “He meant it can happen anywhere because they are indigenous. It’s not uncommon for the Health Department to get a few calls per year, respond to them and get them resolved. If we had complaints all through town, we’d be hearing about it.”