New York City residents may see fewer rats swiftly dodging subway commuters.
Officials suspect that hundreds of thousands of rats in the city were killed by the massive flooding resulting from Hurricane Ida's torrential rains early this month, reports Jake Offenhartz for Gothamist. The downpour brought six to eight inches of rain to the Northeastern United States, from Pennsylvania to Connecticut, reports Barbara Goldberg and Nathan Layne for Reuters. Rats can swim up to a mile, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but most likely could not keep up with New York City's hourly record rainfall of 3.15 inches.
"With this particular storm, any rats that were in the sewers were either crushed by the current or were swept out into the rivers. I can't imagine they would've survived," said Bobby Corrigan, a pest control expert who previously was a rodentologist for the New York City Department of Health, to Gothamist.
While on a bike ride through Canarsie Park in Brooklyn, New York, Neal Phillip, an environmental professor at Bronx Community College, spotted the aftermath of the floods and, littered along the sand, a group of rat carcasses with upturned bellies, reports Alyssa Guzman for Daily Mail. "When I saw the first one, I thought it was strange. Then I started seeing them all over the place," said Philip to Gothamist. "Seeing them dead like that wasn't very pleasant."
There is no specific count on how many rats scurry around New York City, but estimates are in the millions, with many living underground in the subway systems and sewers, reports Newsweek's Jon Jackson. In the days following the record floods, community members were finding more drowned rats throughout the city’s five boroughs. The reports of drowned rats in various parts of the city suggest that many were swept out by the waters and carried through sewer pipes. When the sewer system is overwhelmed by heavy rains, its outflows end up in local bays and estuaries, per Gothamist.
Despite floodwaters evicting rats from the subway system, exterminators who spoke with Gothamist said that complaints of rats had gone up since the hurricane because surviving rats sought refuge in private homes and public spaces. Calls have increased threefold in the days after Ida hit, Timothy Wong, an exterminator at M&M Pest Control for 20 years, told Gothamist. He has taken calls about displaced rats burrowing in sheds and building nests inside of parked cars, and dead rats being swarmed by flies. The NYC Department of Health, however, hasn’t reported a similar flood of complaints.
"Citywide, 311 (New York City's hotline) complaints for rodent activity have not increased from previous levels over the summer, but we are monitoring our data and taking a closer look at the impacted ZIPs. We do not take a census of the rat population in NYC," a spokesperson from the NYC Department of Health told Newsweek.
Many community members in the area have taken to social media to share photos and videos of not only drowned rats but rats that are scampering around in broad daylight in Central Park. Other videos show omnivorous wildlife taking advantage of what the hurricane dragged out. In search of a quick meal, some are scavenging on dead carcasses and others are preying on live rats, per Gothamist. One viral video making rounds on social media shows a blue heron scarfing down a rat whole that was found in the Pond at Central Park.
“That’s got to be happening all over the place,” Corrigan told Gothamist. “This was a massive meat dump for all scavengers — the raccoons, the hawks, the herons.”