The last thing Jeff Pratt expected to see when he turned into the parking lot of a fast food restaurant in Downtown Bellevue was dozens of pairs of beady eyes glinting back at him in his headlights.
According to Pratt, a Bellevue resident with a child who attends nearby Bellevue High School, more than 30 rats scampered from the dumpster in the beam of his headlights into a small hill behind the store.
“It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. There are students from the high school eating there all the time. These rats were huge, like kitten-sized. They must have been there for generations.”
Pratt called the King County Health Department, which sent out a health inspector two days later to the Jack In The Box restaurant on Main Street and the 7-Eleven convenience store on Bellevue Way.
According to Hilary Karasz, a communications team member for Public Health, the hill behind the dumpsters is the harborage for the rodents. It is not owned by either business.
The official inspection report revealed the rat problem was not a surprise to either business. The fast food restaurant and the convenience store had hired pest control in the past. Health inspector Dominique Gilley found that Sprague Pest Solutions had trapped more than 60 rats when the Seattle-based company was hired several months before.
“Population has increased recently and [the general manager] for Jack in the Box contacted the district manager this morning as live rat was found in dumpster enclosure,” the report reads. “Jack in the Box will increase baiting and trapping and will thoroughly clean/scrub the dumpster enclosure.”
Dan Moran, environmental health services supervisor for Public Health’s Eastgate office, said that finding a rat in a fast food dumpster is not uncommon. Finding the number that Pratt reported seeing is a different story.
“Lawrence L.,” a Yelp.com user, reported seeing a rat behind the store on Jan. 29.
The owners of the businesses affected pledged to take action against the pest infestation, including sealing up holes or weak points on the exterior of the buildings, cleaning the dumpsters, sealing a dumpster drainage hole and stricter disposal procedures such as shutting the lid and cleaning the parking lot, according to Public Health.
Public Health plans to work with the businesses and the city of Bellevue on baiting and trapping the hill harboring the rodents.