COVID-19 has not only the human population undergoing a pandemic of sorts, but apparently the New York City rodent population is feeling the effects as well.
The city’s rats usually survive on the waste that is discarded by the millions of restaurants in New York City. But since the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses to close, these animals have become famished and desperate for food. On June 22, the city allowed restaurants to seat guests outdoors. This has resulted in customers encountering hungry rats who are willing to crawl on shoes and tables to get some of the patrons’ food.
“Any mammals, if you take the food away you’re going to have abnormal behavior show up really quick,” an urban rodentologist, Dr. Bobby Corrigan, said to Gothamist.
This has moved business owners and residents to urge the city to finally address its rodent population. Yet despite their pleas, it’s not likely that New York City will actually confront this issue. Currently, the city and state are working to combat the coronavirus pandemic and restart the economy without suffering a devastating second wave. As a result, people are taking it upon themselves to fend off these rodents.
Per NY1, people like Elias Schewel and his dog Sundrop are hunting rats. Together, Schewel and his pet set out on a quest to kill as many rats as possible four nights a week. They travel around Brooklyn killing as many as 20 rats in four hours.
“It’s actually been a great pleasure of mine watching [Sundrop] learn how to make a kill,” Schewel told the station. “It’s like whack-a-mole.”
Despite the satisfaction Schewel feels from killing these animals, his work does little to decrease New York City’s rat population. There are close to two million rats in the city—which is third behind Chicago and Los Angeles. Also, rats are migrating to places where sanitation measures have been cut due to COVID-19.
As much as it disgusts us to admit it, rats have become part of the New York City ecosystem. We hope once we’re on the other side of the pandemic the city is forced to take a long, hard, look at its rodent problem and come up with viable solutions — before we have another pandemic on our hands.