SHIRLEY — Residents in the Valley View and Apple Rock Way area, housing developments off Lancaster Road, have seen rats in their neighborhood recently and are worried there’s an “infestation problem,” said Janice Mancini, who brought the issue to the selectmen Monday night.

Mancini said she spotted rats around her bird feeder and removed it, and that others have seen rats “in great numbers.” She said discarded mattresses in some residents’ yards look “eaten into,” as if rats are nesting in them or using the material to build nests nearby. She also noted trash in those yards.

Mancini said she’s leery of setting out traps because of kids in the neighborhood, which is only about a quarter-mile from the elementary school. She wants a professional exterminator called in, she said.

The health board sent out two letters. The first, dated Aug. 23, was sent to residents in the Apple Rock and Valley View neighborhoods. The board said it has been told about a “rat infestation” a recent meeting.

The letter asked residents:

* Not to feed any wild animals, including birds.

* “All trash should be picked up and placed in sealed containers.” Residents would buy the official town trash bags, available at Town Hall and other locations in town and set them out on the designated day for their street. Recycling pickup is free.

* Lawns should be kept mowed to a reasonable height” so rodents can’t hide in the tall grass.

If the rats can’t find food, “they will move on,” the board said.

A second letter went out Sept. 4 and included Deer Avenue residents. It was more strongly worded, and included more requests:

* Keep food in sealed containers.

* Remove trash from sheds and garages and dispose of it properly.

* Remove brush piles and household items from yards.

* Pick vegetables as soon as possible.

* Empty or remove water containers.

* Finally, “If you have not used rodent bait and traps, please do so. This should alleviate the problem.”

At the meeting, Cappucci told Mancini that Town Administrator Mike McGovern had met with Board of Health member Butch Farrar and the town’s sanitation agent, Ira Grossman of the Nashoba Associated Boards of Health.

In the second letter, Farrar said he and Grossman saw signs of a rodent problem when they visited the area Aug. 29.

Selectmen authorized McGovern to speak with the Board of Health, and determine if it needs more funding via a fall Town Meeting article.

Lindsay Calderwood, of Deer Avenue, said she has three young children and a small dog. She and her family have “done what we can” to deal with the problem, but she’s “really concerned,” she said. She said some homes in the two developments have mattresses in the yards and she contacted the health board about it. In her view, they should issue a warning to these people, set a deadline and take action.

Contacted Tuesday morning, health board administrative assistant Sandi Hill explained that the board is following proper procedure and sent letters as a first step.

Selectman Bryan Sawyer said the matter should be on the board’s agenda for every meeting until it is resolved. “But it does need to go through the Board of Health,” he said.

Cappucci agreed. “Maybe this becomes a warrant article,” he said. “We’ll stay on it.”