New York City Overrun By Immense Number Of Rats

New York City's long-standing rat problem is about to get a lot worse.

By Charlene Badasie | Published

This article is more than 2 years old

new york city rat

New York City has a rat problem. This may not be news to most people, especially since a 2014 study revealed that approximately two million rats have called the city home for decades. They thrive on the streets, in sewers, in abandoned and un-abandoned buildings, in parks, the subways, and even in some restaurants. These creepy creatures have presented a seemingly unsolvable problem for the longest time despite a variety of efforts.

In 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio even launched a $32m rat-tackling effort to curb New York City’s rat problem. The endeavor had municipal workers setting more traps and spraying more poison, the sanitation department blasted dry ice into nests, and building owners were fined into cleaning up their trash. But their efforts were futile as the problem is getting much worse. New data suggest that sightings have become more frequent than they’ve been in a decade.

According to ABC’s Eyewitness News, New York City residents have called in about 7,400 rat sightings in April alone. That’s up from about 6,150 during the same time last year. Sightings have also spiked by more than 60% from the first four months of 2019, which was the last pre-pandemic year. Additionally, the number of rodent sightings this year was the highest figure recorded since 2010 – the first year online records of the vermin became available.

However, people are divided on whether the number of New York City rats has increased or if the pandemic simply made the situation more visible. In 2021, the New York Times said sightings increased by 40% in the first 11 months compared to 2019. This was reportedly due to trash collection cuts and street-cleaning services. At the same time, lockdown measures that forced restaurants to close also deprived rodents of a regular food source. This in turn forced hungry rats to travel further, and more openly, in search of nourishment.

Now that people are starting to resume pre-pandemic activities and spending more time outdoors, experts are weighing in on the worsening New York City rats situation. When asked if sightings will surge in the summer months, Pest Management Specialist for the state of New York, Matt Frye said it depends on how much food is available to them and where. In an email to ABC’s Eyewitness News, he added while a return to pre-pandemic routines is exciting it also means business as usual for rat problems that are directly tied to human behavior.

During a recent news conference in Times Square, Eric Adams announced New York City’s latest rat eliminating effort – padlocked curbside trash bins. These new trash cans are intended to reduce the big piles of garbage bags that turn into a buffet for rodents. The move has been welcomed by locals since rats can also be a public health concern. Last year, around 13 people were hospitalized after contracting Leptospirosis – a condition that attacks the kidneys and liver. Most human infections are associated with rats, so hopefully, this new endeavor will prove more effective than previous attempts.