New York City – There’s an old saying that no matter where you are in the city, you’re never more than 6 feet away from a rat, but is it true? Well, scientists have published a recent study that shows just how little we really know about rats and how many there are in the city.
Whether you love them or hate them, rats and humans have a long and complicated history together. From living together to killing each other en mass. They have adapted to survive perfectly comfortably in our new cities and eat whatever we leave within their reach. Rats may be closer to you than you think and you may never be aware of it.
“City Rats are among the most important but least-studied wildlife in urban environments,” a joint team of Australian and American researchers and pest control experts published in the Journal of Urban Ecology.
With so many rats around, you would think that researchers would have no problem studying city rats almost anywhere they wanted. Unfortunately, those same researchers have a hard time getting people to open their doors to them, once people have a rat problem they tend to want to hide it. Having a rat problem is not something most people want to advertise since to this day, rats are associated with poverty and poor sanitation.
So researchers are getting creative, they have discovered in the past that incentivizing people get a lot more doors open. They have offered free and confidential extermination services in return for access to a place with a verifiable rodent problem.
Now, Michael H. Parsons the lead author of the paper on city rats and how little we know about them has decided to take incentivization one step further. He is offered up to $1,000 to access a rat infested location in Manhattan, in addition to the money extermination services will be offered after the study is complete.
“We neglect to study them at own peril,” Jason Munshi-South, the co-author of the study and professor of biology at Fordham University said in a statement. “No war has ever decimated one-third of the human population. Rats have.”
Rats can threaten humans in many ways, they have been responsible for fires and diseases. They can contaminate food which leads to illness; rats can spread a parasite called rat lungworm disease. The larvae of the worms can end up infecting the human brain.
With these animals living almost everywhere we do, having been responsible for the bubonic plague in the 14th century (via their fleas) and having access to our food supplies, it may be well past time that we took a good hard look at the common rat.