American rats are badly affected by the coronavirus.
As millions of Americans take shelter indoors to fight the deadly virus, which has claimed the lives of more than 21,000 people in the United States, many businesses – including restaurants and grocery stores – have closed or limited their activities, thereby cutting off the main sources of food for many rodents. In the deserted streets of the country, rats are in a very poor state of survival, according to experts.
“If you take rats that have been established in the area or on someone’s property and they are doing well, the reason they are doing well is because they are eating well,” said Bobby Corrigan. , an urban rodentologist, at NBC News. “Since the coronavirus broke, not a single thing has changed with them, because someone does their garbage in exactly the same way in their yard as they always did – wrong. “
But many other rats are not doing as well, said Corrigan, who works as a consultant for several health services and businesses in the city, such as airports and shopping malls.
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“A restaurant suddenly closes now, which has happened in the thousands not only in New York, but from coast to coast and around the world, and these rats that lived in this restaurant, a nearby place, and perhaps for decades generations of rats that depended on this restaurant food, well, life no longer works for them, and they have only two choices. ”
And these choices are grim. They include cannibalism, rat fighting and infanticide.
“It is as we have seen in human history, where people try to take land and they enter with soldiers and armies and fight to the death, literally, for who will conquer this earth. And that’s what’s going on with rats, “he said. “A new” army “of rats is coming into play, and whatever army has the most rats, it will conquer this region. “
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Rats whose food sources have disappeared will not only move to other colonies and will cause fighting against white grubs. They will also eat each other.
“They are mammals like you and me, and so when you are really, really hungry, you will not act the same way – you will act very badly in general,” he said. “So these rats are fighting with each other, now the adults are killing the young in the nest and cannibalizing the puppies.” “
Residents of dense urban areas and some rural areas of the country have coexisted with these pests, but sightings in some cities have increased in recent weeks due to the pandemic.
In New Orleans, where the governor of Louisiana has imposed a stay at home order that has closed many restaurants, especially those in popular tourist areas like the French Quarter, a viral video released in March showed swarms rats taking to the streets to find food. And officials said social distancing was to blame.
“What we have seen is that these practices are driving our rodents crazy,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell at a press conference late last month. “And what rodents do, they will find food and they will find water. This puts our homeless people in a very difficult situation. And that’s why I’m so focused on the laser right now. “
Claudia Riegel, director of the New Orleans Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control Board, told Times-Picayune that the city is preparing aggressive pest control measures.
“These rats are hungry, so we want them to eat our bait,” she said, adding that the city “will put a lot of pressure for at least the next month” until the population decreases.
Washington, D.C., is also taking action to address rodent problems. Mayor Muriel Bowser has closed restaurants and other businesses, but has identified pest control workers as essential. Before the pandemic, the city had already aggressively implemented pest control measures, including the use of feral cats.
In the past 30 days, the city has received nearly 500 rodent calls, according to data from city 311. In the nearby city of Baltimore, which has a robust rat eradication program, data from the city shows that there were around 11,000 “proactive” calls or 311 online requests for rats in the same period.
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Also according to Corrigan, people shouldn’t panic when suddenly seeing an invasion of rats, like in the movies.
“There is not one behavior that will suit everyone,” he said. “It will not be a case where suddenly rats are invading everywhere, and it will not be exactly as we have seen on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. “
He said it will be a “case by case” and “block by block” problem in cities across the country. Rats can become desperate and people can see them near their homes or properties.
“Rats are designed to smell molecules from everything related to food,” said Corrigan. “They follow these food molecules like heat-seeking missiles – and ultimately you know they end up causing these molecules. “