Rodent Residents

A new analysis has found one rat for every four people in the Big Apple. Only one in four? Compared with the bed bugs …  I was going to jump on this for another unpopular rant about NYC. But DC’s at least as bad, if not a little worse:

The District was the nation’s third rattiest city in 2013, faring better than just Chicago and Los Angeles, according to pest control company Orkin. Orkin compiled these ranking based on how many rat treatments it performed in 2013, so take this ranking with a large cluster of rat dropping–sized skepticism … In Orkin’s ratings, New York City ranked as the fourth rattiest city, coming in behind D.C. But, it should be noted, City Desk spoke to D.C.’s very own rat consultant, Robert Corrigan, back in November, who declared New York City as “probably the No. 1 ratropolis in the United States.”

It’s still pretty bad – but way better than I remember. My habitual bike ride down the alley-way behind my apartment would routinely enter an Indiana Jones environment. There were so many rats it was close to impossible to avoid them. And the feel of a writhing, scurrying rat beneath your bike wheels is a particular form of eww. Meanwhile, Ben Richmond offers a brief history of the creature:

[W]hile we all agree that there are too many rats, no one has been sure of just how many we’re up against here. Jonathan Auerbach, author of the rat population study, traced the one-to-one ratio to a 1909 book by W. R. Boelter called The Rat Problem, “which assumed that there lived one rat per acre of land in England.” Since the country had, at the time, both 40 million residents and 40 million acres, Boelter concluded that England had a rat for each person. “The hypothesis was erroneously applied to New York City and is widely quoted to this day,” Auerbach’s paper states. Boelter probably wasn’t right about England, and there’s no reason to think what he found applies to New York.

The estimated number of rats has varied widely over the years: from 250,000 estimated in 1948 – a ratio of 36 people for every rat– to twice as many rats as people, according to unnamed experts cited by the New York Post. The city government isn’t into putting a number on its rat residents, but it does track the number of properties that could be housing them. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Office of Pest Control Services reported that, in 2013, 10,800 property inspections had conditions able to harbor rats and 11,128 had active signs of rats.