Sandy's Silver Lining: Did Flooding Kill New York's Rats?

 
on October 31 2012 3:37 PM
NYC Subway Rats
Has NYC been spared a rat invasion? REUTERS

As New York struggles to recover from Hurricane Sandy, there’s at least one victim of the destruction no one will be sad to see go.

According to reports, a large portion of the city’s teeming rat population may have drowned in the floodwaters that filled the subways, tunnels and basements of Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn.

“I talked to a handful of MTA workers tending to the East River tunnel of the 2/3 line in Brooklyn Heights, and they denied seeing any exodus,” Forbes journalist Bruce Upbin wrote. “Sam Miller, a spokesman for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygeine, emailed back the reassurance that the city has ‘not seen an increase in rats above ground caused by Hurricane Sandy.’

“He also noted that, while flooding often does displace rats, it ‘also drowns young rats in their burrows and can reduce the rat population.’”

It had been feared the least welcome of New York’s residents might flee their subterranean homes, filling the streets and apartment buildings with roving bands of vermin.

But it appears the speed of Monday night’s flooding may just have caught the rats by surprise.

“Most of the rats that are living there will actually drown,” Herwig Leirs, a rodentologist at the University of Antwerp in Belgium, told LiveScience.

"Rats will be carried away by the current and won't be strong enough to swim to the surface and breathe, or they'll be pushed to grates, they will get stuck there, and they won't be strong enough to swim against the current.”

But it isn't all good news.

Apparently, the deluge of garbage and the lack of human activity owing to the power outage in lower Manhattan and elsewhere will make any survivors more daring.

"At least for the first few days, you will expect that rats will be a bit more bold," Leirs added.

 

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