New York City, NY – Flooded subway systems have brought a plethora of rats out of hiding in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. More than half a dozen subway tunnels are filled with water, allowing the usually reclusive rats to feast heartily during their extended stay on the surface.
Positive Pest Management Corporation exterminator Benett Pearlman believes that many rats escaped a watery demise and are enjoying the chance to roam outside, according to National Geographic. The horrific storm washed new sources of food directly into the path of the rodents. Flooding streets mean that rotting trash rolled around the city, inviting the little creatures to eat and establish new homes.
The bloated rats are expected to burrow beneath buildings at night after traveling above ground to follow the new food supply. National Geographic also notes that rats can slide through holes as small as a half inch in diameter – approximately the same width as their skulls.
Scientific American writer Bora Zivkovic had this to say about the New York City rats:
“My guess is that most of the rats survived. But quite a large number of rats drowned – depending on exact location, depth, how much they know about how to get to the surface at all, their exact route to the surface, and their status in the social hierarchy.”
The rat relocation also reportedly means that diseases could spread more quickly. Rick Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies notes that the rodents exacerbate and spread disease when in high populations. Ostfeld points to the bubonic plague and salmonella problems earlier this year at Yosemite National Park as a prime example of realistic health concerns. Rats typically spread disease not only through bites, but via urine and feces contact as well, according to the Huffington Post.