Niagara Gazette

Local News

February 22, 2013

A rodent mystery in the Big Apple â€" where are all the rats?

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — He also said that when water was pumped out of flooded tunnels and stations, there weren't large numbers of rat carcasses left behind.

The idea of a mass rat migration drew ridicule from Richard Reynolds, who leads a group of dog owners who conduct urban rat hunts.

"What happened to the rats? Nothing! We're finding rats right where we've always found them," he said. "I think this whole idea that there has been some kind of major relocation of rats is just good news media fodder."

He noted, as did other experts, that Norwegian rats, the species found in New York, are known for being especially strong swimmers.

"I have seen them dive over 70 feet, swim 500 yards, give me the finger and head for the hills," he said. "Hurricane Sandy is not going to affect these critters."

Hard scientific data, though, is still largely lacking, and there is plenty of room for debate.

Retired pest control expert Dale Kaukeinen, who spent 30 years in the extermination business, said his first instinct was that Sandy probably decimated the rodent population in some neighborhoods. But he said he couldn't rule out the possibility that displaced rats had moved into new territory.

"They are adaptable. They can swim. They can move distances," he said, citing radio telemetry studies showing that rats can move several miles if displaced by environmental conditions.

Also, because rats live in a world of smell, their former homes might have been rendered unfamiliar by a flood, he said, even if the buildings, parks or tunnels they had been living in suffered little permanent damage.

"To a rat, it wouldn't look the same, it wouldn't smell the same," he said.

Jessica Lappin, the councilwoman who proposed the emergency extermination program for flood-damaged neighborhoods, said she was skeptical when she first started hearing stories about rat infestations since the storm but has come to believe the problem is real.

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