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  • Wormtail.

  • Professor Ratigan.

  • The R.O.U.S's.

  • Pop culture has given rats a bad rep.

  • And honestly, it's understandable why.

  • Take northeastern India's rat flood.

  • Twice a century, rats swarm when bamboo forests drop 80 tons of seeds.

  • After they devour the seeds, they devastate local agriculture.

  • In the 1960s, the resulting famine was so bad it led to a major political uprising.

  • So it's no wonder that the technical term for a group of rats is a mischief.

  • And it's not just that they're a problem for farmers.

  • These crafty rodents are the ultimate urbanites.

  • Meet your average city rats.

  • Rattus rattus and rattus norvegicus.

  • These rats live pretty much wherever we do, especially in cities.

  • Take New York City, for example.

  • We don't know exactly how many rats call the Big Apple home, but a 2014 study gave a ballpark estimate of two million rats.

  • And that means in heavily infested areas, you could have several rats per person.

  • And in some ways, rats are actually better suited for living in cities than we are.

  • After all, they can climb brick walls,

  • they can tightrope walk over telephone cables,

  • and their incisors grow 14 inches a year,

  • which lets them gnaw into anything,

  • including everywhere you don't want them.

  • But their most powerful ability?

  • Rats are clever.

  • Too clever.

  • Scientists have shown that rats can learn to use tools,

  • and when offered the choice between a chocolate and freeing a trapped friend,

  • the rats choose to free their friend over chocolate.

  • When you translate those smarts into the real world, rats easily avoid traps.

  • Trying to poison them won't help much, either.

  • They're extremely patient when it comes to new foods.

  • They'll taste just a tiny portion at first,

  • wait to see if that food makes them sick,

  • and only if it doesn't will they consume the rest.

  • This is called delayed learning, and it's why rats are notoriously difficult to poison.

  • Plus, they can develop resistance to many poisons over time, so even if you outwit them, probably still won't work.

  • Another major issue is that rats reproduce so quickly.

  • A single doe usually has eight to 12 pups every eight weeks.

  • And those babies can have pups of their own after only five weeks.

  • So as long as they have access to food, rat populations will rebound from just about any attack.

  • The only attack they can't handle is improved sanitation, and cities are starting to figure that out.

  • In 2017, New York City launched a $32 million war plan against its rats.

  • Eliminate 70% of the rats in 10 of its most infested neighborhoods.

  • The plan is simple, cut off the rats' food source.

  • You see, New York City produces around 33 million tons of trash a year, an endless buffet for the rats.

  • And the trash piles aren't getting any smaller.

  • So the city is at least making it harder for the rats to reach the trash by replacing traditional trash compactors with a mailbox-style opening.

  • So, will New York City succeed by the end of 2018 as proposed?

  • Judging by the thousands of years where rats came out on top, it sounds a little too optimistic.

  • We've been talking a lot of trash about wild rats as problematic pests, but Pet Fancy rats are a completely different story.

  • They don't spread disease, they're social, smart, and easily trainable.

  • And get this, one amazing study found that rats giggle when you tickle them.


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B1 US trash york city york infested poison rat

Why Cities Can’t Get Rid Of Rats

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    Evangeline posted on 2021/03/20
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