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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Profile of the Norway rat, Rattus norvegicus, in New York City: Its Impact on City Operations and the Need for Collaborative Interagency Rat Management Programs


New York City, New York is a uniquely ideal urban habitat for the Norway rat. There are several reasons for this, but foremost is New York’s being one of America’s oldest seaport cities and the most densely populated city in the U.S., with a population of at least 8.2 million residents, all living within only a 321-square-mile area. Thus, food resources are readily abundant and easily accessible to rats. So, too, is an abundance of rat harborage resources, ranging from earthen burrows, to a myriad of subterranean harborages within city infrastructures, to the structural harborages associated with the city’s buildings numbering in the millions. Such conditions allow the opportunistic brown rat to proliferate, spread, and repeatedly rebound from extermination campaigns that have been directed at it for over a 200-year period. This paper presents a profile of the brown rat as a major urban pest of New York City and its impact within the context of New York’s daily operations. An overview is presented of the City of New York’s infrastructure and city management agencies of most relevance in rat management programs, and of the city’s collaborative interagency approaches.

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