Rats in NYC

Humans and New York rats have lived together for many years. Rats get food, water and shelter from homes. Humans however get no benefits from rats. Rats carry disease bearing pathogens and are known to cause bacterial and viral infections. Rat hair, feces and urine are also known to cause allergic reactions in some people. Rats have been seen in NYC since early colonial days. Till 1944 there were two species of rats namely the brown rat and the black rat. Today the city is dominated by the brown rat also known as Norway rat. The brown rat in NYC is bigger and very aggressive. It has almost wiped out the black rat population.

It is often cited that there are more rats than humans in NYC. However in 2014 scientists have established that rats are only 20% of the human population in NYC. Rats seem to have literally taken over NYC. Viral videos of New York rats climbing out of toilets, biting babies, crawling over sleeping commuters and dragging a pizza down the subway can be seen. In 2014 Animal Planet named NYC as “The worst rat city in the world”. In the Orkin exterminators annual (2017) a study conducted by Atlanta based pest control NYC came 2nd in the list of “Top 50 Rattiest Cities”. Chicago came first.

Reasons for the huge number of rats in NYC
• Adaptation to the environment
• Easy availability of food and shelter
• Improper methods of garbage disposal

Adaptation to the environment
New York rats are extraordinarily adaptive being a hardy breed. They can jump to about 4ft horizontally and survive a fall from 40ft. They can crawl through very small holes. Rats mate at the age of 2-3 months and produce a litter of a dozen pups. They produce a litter every two months. In a year a female can produce about 285 new born rats. Their mortality rate is also high and hence the rat population has increased by leaps and bounds.

Easy availability of food
The city life permits New York rats to find food easily. Rats need only an ounce (28g) of food and water per day to live. This is easily available in cities and other densely populated places. Restaurants and people have the habit of leaving food and unsealed garbage in open trash cans on the street. Rats also occupy empty warehouses and loiter around streets and restaurants.

Improper sanitation and garbage disposal methods
Humans did not have a proper method of garbage disposal for many years. Even today proper methods are not implemented. Budget constraints may also be the reason. Hence there is need for education, awareness and proper methods of sealing and picking up garbage. Metal cans with secure lids have to be used. Plastic cans are ineffective as rats chew through plastic. Many people also do not seem to be sensitive to the rat menace. The NYC municipal authorities are trying various methods to approach rodent control. They include adopting proper garbage disposal methods, sterilization of female rats using chemical sprays and publishing guides on rat prevention and control

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