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AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Base officials admit they’ve had a problem keeping some non-ID card holders out of the commissary and exchange complex.

The culprits are small and furry, and have no wallets or forms of personal identification. They are rats and mice, seeking somewhere to get out of the cold and find something to eat.

A leaflet circulated by one of the two unions that represent Italian employees on base last week mentioned a problem with rodents, causing a little skittishness around base.

Attempts to contact the union this week for more specifics were unsuccessful. But Ken Watson, deputy commander of the 31st Mission Support Group, said the problem is not a new one. And there’s no reason for the public to be concerned.

“At no time has there been any kind of public health issue,” he said Wednesday. Base personnel have been maintaining “constant vigilance” at the complex virtually since it opened five years ago.

But eliminating the problem — and the little critters — is not very likely.

“We are in the middle of an agricultural zone,” he said. Infestations often get worse when temperatures drop or fields surrounding the base are harvested — both of which have happened recently.

“Recently, we’ve seen an increase,” Watson said.

But he and Master Sgt. Christopher Thai from the 31st Civil Engineering Squadron — one of those targeting the rodents — said catching more of them in traps is actually good news.

“If they’re getting another food source, they won’t go for the traps,” Thai said.

Watson said the base has been working with the Defense Commissary Agency and Army and Air Force Exchange Service to try to minimize the problem.

Workers have shut off every form of entry they can find and employees have been advised to keep their workplaces extra clean and to properly store food or garbage. Workers have also been told to make sure entry ways are secured at all times.

Military exterminators can’t use poison inside the buildings to take on the rats and mice because of European regulations, Thai said. So they’ve been using basic spring traps.

Watson said he hadn’t heard of any customer complaints about the issue and hasn’t heard of any public sightings.

“They’re basically night feeders,” he said. “They don’t want to be seen.”

Thai said airmen certified in pest control visit the facility at least twice a day. They’re also monitoring the situation at other buildings across the base.

Commissary manager Ron Foster said DECA, AAFES and base officials have been cooperating to try to keep the unauthorized visitors to a minimum.

“Any measure we can take, we take it,” he said. “Every hole that I can think of has been plugged.”

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