If you’ve ever been to or heard tales of New York City, I’m sure you’re familiar with the current rat issue roaming the streets, quite literally. While they appeared to have started vanishing a few years ago, the pandemic saw the vermin crafting new shelters and increasing in numbers again. Now, the city has appointed what’s been called a Rat Czar by some (Rat Huntress by me), named Kathleen Corradi. She has an idea on how to tackle the problem, but many residents are doubtful.
Today, I’m going to give you some insight into Corradi’s proposed initial plan, why many think it won’t work, and my suggestion for dealing with rats based on similar issues we have in my area.
What is the problem with rats in New York City?
For those of you who have never heard of this issue before, let me break it down for you. There’s a reason Hollywood loves putting rats in their American movies, followed by someone screaming, “Ah! A rat!” New York City has always been a haven for these vermin, and it’s not always due to the fault of the residents.
These little critters seem to love NYC almost as much as the inhabitants and fans of the Friends TV Show. As a matter of fact, some tourists get excited when they see rats scurrying around the streets into sewers, as they’re quite famous for living there already. However, the mayor and citizens have had enough, and feel that it’s time for these small neighbors to go.
The main concern revolves around several issues for the dear old rat. Thanks to the bubonic plague, it has the stigma of carrying diseases. These guys can chew through almost everything thanks to the iron plating on their teeth, which is why there’s the risk of food going bad. Also, Hollywood has painted the perception that these are disgusting, ugly animals, despite some people actually keeping them as pests.
Of course, the rats can’t cause diseases to appear. They can be carriers, but then the disease needs to exist in the first place. There is one disease that lives in rat urine, but it mostly affects dogs. Thankfully, you can vaccinate them against it.
I think the greatest concern is seeing homes overrun with rats, destroying food and other items in their path. Also, there have been known to be rats biting children in the past, but it may have been a defensive mechanism.
Whatever the reason for hating rats in NYC, plans are now being put into place to get rid of you with the newly appointed Rat Czar, Kathleen Corradi.
What are the Rat Czar’s plans?
New York City is pumping in $3.5 million in an effort to buy supplies so that Corradi can effectively deal with the rat issue. At the moment, this includes rat ice, baits, traps, poisons, fumigation equipment, and better waste-handling vehicles, such as tilt trucks. They want to target the three elements that rats thrive on: food, water, and shelter.
What’s caught everyone’s attention is the new time slot for taking out the trash. A new directive has gone out for New York City citizens to please only put the trash out after 8 pm. The idea is that the rats will have less time to investigate the trash, which means they’ll have less access to food.
Will it work?
So, there are a few issues with this proposed plan. First, rats are nocturnal, so you’re actually just giving them trash food at the best time of the day for them. If trash management actually stuck to a time schedule for various zones in the city, it might have been easier to know when to put your trash out just in the nick of time.
The people that rats are mostly a problem for are the homeless or those living in poor housing. If trash isn’t taken care of properly in these areas, the issue will continue for years to come. There need to be more effective trash management protocols put in place for them, or some form of education. Telling them to put their trash out after 8 pm isn’t going to cut it.
When it comes to baits, traps, poisons, and similar items, rats sometimes develop a resistance to them or learn to avoid them by watching other rats die. While it does work in some circumstances, this is more of a passive-aggressive approach to eradicating them from the streets of NYC. They are putting the poison down, hoping it will eventually solve the problem. In my upcoming case study, I’ll explain more about why this ultimately doesn’t work.
What other solutions to the rat problem have been proposed?
While reading about the new Rat Czar and initiatives online, I saw some other proposals. One was called containerization. The concept is being used elsewhere with some moderate success, having seen a reduction in rats. Yet, it does come with its own problems.
The idea is to use massive metal bins that are sealed until the truck comes along to empty them. It’s so big that it takes up an entire parking space, which is why it’s not ideal. NYC would have to have hundreds of these all over the place just to cater to everyone.
Also, these bins quickly become full if there isn’t a fast schedule for cleaning them. It results in trash bags being left outside the bins, causing the rats to appear anyway. While it sounds like a nice idea, it won’t solve the issue.
A Case Study of Similar Problems
Here were I live, we have similar problems to NYC has with rats: vagrants and roaches. They both need food, water, and shelter, and they tend to cause similar issues if not taken care of. Specifically, the vagrants just shack up on fields and streets near settlements so they can dig through your trash or steal from your backyard while you’re sleeping.
Since we can’t poison the vagrants (or rather, we shouldn’t), the common solution is to send in law enforcement and transport them to shelters where they can be looked after without causing us problems. The issue is, they don’t want that lifestyle and return to the streets and fields.
Transporting rats to a different location doesn’t help, either. As they said in council where I worked before, transferring a problem isn’t the solution. If NYC simply collected and moved the rats elsewhere, they would become someone else trouble. Also, they would just come back.
As for roaches, it’s the same dilemma. You can have your house as clean as a whistle, but if they smell food, they’ll be living in your home shortly. No matter how many traps, bait, or poison you use, there’s always more hiding around your home to take their place.
So now I want to address the 8 pm and containerization issues with regard to the same roach problem. These critters also come out at night, so they will just go have a feast on the trash anyway. The metal containers actually cause a bigger problem for roaches and rats that I don’t think anyone has considered yet.
Rats won’t just go away because you hide the trash. They are hungry; they will find food, come hell or high water. That means, they’ll probably resort to breaking into homes, gnawing through pantry doors, and finding bags of sugar and other food to eat. You’ve stopped them from eating the trash, so now they’re going to come for your food in your house.
The Ultimate Solution: Destroy the Rat Nests
I’m going to call your mind to a classic science fiction horror movie series called Alien. When the monsters started killing everyone, did Ripley place bait or traps and just hope that they would go away? No. She became infuriated, hunted down the nests, and burnt the SOBs to hell.
That’s why I brought up the roach case study. One very effective way we’ve learned how to deal with them is to hunt down the nests and kill them with any means necessary. Many households use this approach, relentlessly checking for new nests daily and killing them until they are gone.
Yes, the traps and poison are also used as supplementary weapons against these critters, but it’s not the only means. If the Rat Czar is to use killer instinct against the rats in NYC, she needs to become the Rat Huntress. Teams of flamethrowers need to patrol sewers and other areas that are well-known to hold rat nests. From there, it’s a case of exterminating them, or even chasing them to a pre-determined location that’s a literal deathtrap.
Sure, this approach may seem intense to some people, but being passive against the problem isn’t going to help. The only issue is that once you exterminate the rat nest in NYC, you need to make sure to keep the neighboring ones from nearby cities taking up the vacancies.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way
At the end of the day, it boils down to how serious NYC and the Rat Czar are about destroying the rat population in the city. If they just want to passively put down traps and deal with trash management to try and reduce the vermin, so be it. Ultimately, it isn’t the ideal solution, and the rats will find new ways to locate food.