Plague in Corona times: The rats are on the loose in New York

Status: 01.12.2021 10:21 a.m.

Rats have always been part of New York – but the plague is now rampant. The city is not getting a grip on the pest invasion. Residents now go hunting themselves.

By Antje Passenheim, ARD-Studio New York

Friday night is rat hunt night. Richard Reynolds and his terrier Rommel are at the top: five men and women from the neighborhood Facebook group “Rats”. Together with five terriers and a dachshund are on the prowl through the area: the blocks of the Lower East Side.

Antje Passenheim
ARD-Studio New York

“The weather is good tonight. We’re taking the chance,” says Reynolds. Rommel uses them. As the men jerk the barrels, two rats run out of it. One doesn’t make it. There will be eight in total that evening.

Significantly more “rat emergency calls”

Self-defense, say the “Rats”. Because here in the southeast of Manhattan they suffer particularly from the rodents that are currently taking over the Big Apple. The rats are on the loose – the media warned, experts confirm, and calls from the city hotline speak volumes: New Yorkers have raised rat alarms on the city cleaning emergency number more than 21,000 times this year, 6,000 more than two years ago.

Corona is complicit

Rodents have always been part of New York. Biologists even differentiate between uptown and downtown rats. But since Corona everything has simply been going wrong, says Pied Piper Reynolds: “They react to food, accommodation, water – if these three things go elsewhere, the rats also move.”

And that’s exactly what happened. When restaurants closed at the beginning of the pandemic, many rats ended up on the streets. They left the basement and sewer system to look for their dinner in the many makeshift outdoor restaurants. Then the budget of the municipal waste disposal companies was also cut.

Since then, more garbage bags have piled up on the sidewalks. A feast for rats, says exterminator John Dewey, head of Pest Pros New York City. “We’re seeing a lot more activity. There’s more rubbish on the streets, more outdoor dining, more food, more junk.

Better to close the toilet seat!

The “Exterminator” lays sticky traps in front of an entrance on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It is booming in the old brownstone houses in Central Park. Rats on tables, under beds, in the hallways. Dewey does what he can – “but the people should also join in”. When they travel, Dewey advises them: keep the toilet seat down.

“Rats are excellent swimmers, they can get up through the drains through the toilets,” warns Dewey. “We have had many cases where people have called us because rats have come into their apartment from the toilet.”

New mayor promises remedy

The Center for Disease Control warns: The pandemic could also make the rats more aggressive. But there is no evidence for this. The future mayor Eric Adams groans: “This rat epidemic is slowly getting out of hand.”

Even before he took office, Adams promised to lay new traps in the city. He’s already tested it. Exterminator Dewey meanwhile relies on his house recipe: “We’ll try peanut butter, chocolate, everything. I can’t reveal that, otherwise nobody will call us anymore.”

The Pied Piper of New York – The City, Man and the Rodent Plague

Antje Passenheim, ARD New York, December 1, 2021 9:26 am

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