Rodents evicted from Conejo

Sophomore Talya Cohen came back to her Conejo Hall dorm room in January to find evidence of a rat living in her space.

Resident rodents: (Top) De Leon said she found rodent droppings on her bed after winter break.  Photo provided by Alex De Leon
Resident rodents: De Leon said she found rodent droppings on her bed after winter break.
Photo provided by Alex De Leon

Cohen, who has since moved out of Conejo Room 504, was living with sophomore Alex De Leon at the time. De Leon said the rat likely invaded the room during the beginning of the winter break.

“There was a pretty big mess in [Cohen’s] bottom desk drawer and all over our beds. I moved out the Friday before school started,” De Leon said.

Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life Chris Paul responded to an interview request via email.

“I would like to clarify that there is definitely not a rat infestation in Conejo. That is a rumor. There was a rodent (I am not even sure what the rodent was) that was in a room and was caught by our professional exterminators. Additionally, the place where it came into the hall from the outside and into the room has been fixed so it doesn’t happen again. Unfortunately, with the construction going on and the hills around our campus, we do have rodents that are around more than usual,” Paul wrote in an email interview.

De Leon said there had been rat sightings around the residence hall “for a while” before rodents were spotted inside dorm rooms.

“When I got back into the dorm from the [winter] break, I found out that there were droppings everywhere on my bed and my roommate’s bed. I was like, ‘What the hell,’ and I was kind of ticked off, so I went over to Res Life to talk to them about it,” De Leon said.

De Leon said she contacted Residence Life on Jan. 17 and said they asked her if she talked to Facility Operations and Planning regarding the situation.

“Res Life told me that other people deal with the same situation and how they put rat traps in their homes and pretty much told me to do the same thing those other people did,” De Leon said.

Resident rodents: The post-it note the RA put up in the Conejo kitchen.  Photo provided by Alex De Leon
Resident rodents: The post-it note the RA put up in the Conejo kitchen.
Photo provided by Alex De Leon

The one and only report facilities received of rats in Conejo Hall was on Jan. 18, Director of Facilities Operations Mark Jacobsen said in a phone interview. He said workers were sent out to the residence hall Jan. 19 and caught the rat that was living in Room 504 the same day. Jacobsen said there have been no reports of rodent sightings in Conejo submitted to facilities since then.

De Leon said facilities has since thrown out the couch in the Conejo common area where rats had been stashing stolen kitchen sponges.

The couch that was removed was the couch students brought into the residence hall, Jacobsen said. Jacobsen said facilities workers found chewed up sponges and other debris under the couch, but it did not look like any animals were living in it at the time of removal.

Junior Bianca Flores lives on the first floor of Conejo Hall, across from De Leon and Cohen’s old room. Flores said she heard about the rat earlier in January from other people living in the residence hall.

Flores said she has never seen or heard rats in the residence hall. 

“I was lucky that there weren’t any rats in my room, but I’ve always wondered why the rats chose to be in the dorm across from us,” Flores said. “I don’t know about the other students living in Conejo, but I’m surprised that there aren’t rats living in my dorm since I live so close to the kitchen.”

There was also a post-it note in the kitchen the following Monday morning regarding sanitary use of kitchen supplies, Flores said. As of Feb. 5, the post-it is still up on the wall.

Jacobsen said “quite a few” rat traps were set at the same time the couch in the common area was removed. He said the traps were set in all places “that seemed to be appropriate and likely to catch anything.” Traps were also set in both bedrooms of room 504, Jacobsen said.

As of 7 p.m. on Jan. 30, the door to Cohen and De Leon’s old dorm was left open. Room 504 had been cleared of any and all personal belongings.

Resident Rodent: Cohen said she found “a pretty big mess” in her bottom desk drawer. Photo provided by Alex De Leon
Resident Rodent: Cohen said she found “a pretty big mess” in her bottom desk drawer.
Photo provided by Alex De Leon

Director of Housing Operations Nate Fall also responded to a request for comment via email.

By no means was there any rat infestation and the one rodent was seen leaving the building and the likely entry space was fully repaired and blocked. At break periods when students are not in rooms for a prolonged period of time, we at times have had everything from a cricket, ants, a squirrel, or other small rodents enter the buildings. The matter was fully addressed within the day that any concern was raised. Facilities has the most information on the matter and from the stories that our office is hearing, this has become something much more than it ever was, Fall wrote in an email interview.

Jacobsen said there was a report of rat sightings in the Mogen snack shack filed Jan. 29 that Facilities is still working on. Jacobsen said Residence Life took all of the food out of the snack area and closed the shack, which has been moved to Rasmussen Hall.

Compared to years past, Jacobsen said the reports of rodent sightings “seems fairly typical.” He said Facilities receives reports of campus-wide sightings and that it is not uncommon to have people notify them of rodents heard in ceilings or seen in parking lots.

Currently, facilities maintains black boxes that house snap traps to control rodents on campus, Jacobsen said. Because the City of Thousand Oaks and the university decided to discontinue use of rodenticides years ago, Jacobsen said it has become “a little more difficult to get control of the rodents on campus.” However, he said that a pest control contractor visits campus once a week to check in and conduct pest maintenance.

Additionally, Jacobsen said the university is on a waiting list with an animal control shelter in Camarillo that runs the ‘Barn Cat’ program, which allows feral cats to be adopted for rodent control. Jacobsen said that the university is in line to receive the cats in “about two months or so.”

Jacobsen said students should report any rodent sightings in residence halls the first time they see it so it does not create more issues. He said that students need to take care of their spaces and not create a lot of mess because “wherever there’s harborage … you’re going to get rodent issues.” Finally, Jacobsen advised students to take their trash out and refrain from leaving food out in open spaces.

Olivia Schouten
News Editor

James Alfaro