Did Hurricane Sandy give rise to mutant rats in NYC?

Experts wonder how the flood will impact the city's rodent population

Topics: New York City, Hurricane Sandy, frankenstorm, rats,

Did Hurricane Sandy give rise to mutant rats in NYC? (Credit: Wikimedia)

As reality sinks in and millions in the East Coast begin a slow recovery from Hurricane Sandy, New Yorkers ask the pressing, characteristically New York question: will the devastation spawn a super-breed of rats?

After consulting Bob Sullivan, the author of “Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants“, the Daily Beast thinks yes: “Sandy isn’t likely to have put much of a dent in the city’s rat problem. If anything, the hurricane may have made things worse.” The Daily Beast writes:

Sandy may actually help the vermin spread diseases, as a matter of fact. It’s a fair wager that most rat populations are skittering around with one or more nasty ailments: leptospirosis, typhus, salmonella, or hantavirus, to name a few. But they don’t carry all of those diseases at once, and those pathogens and viruses are often concentrated among certain populations. What a flood can do is scatter rats (and their food: garbage), relocating them and allowing them to distribute their particular plagues to other rats and, by extension, to people.

You Might Also Like

Jezebel then added to the city’s horror with the headline, “New York City’s Displaced Rat Population Simply Cannot Wait to Give You the Bubonic Plague,” filled with nightmare-inducing imagery:

But the rats, once they’ve swam and climbed into your toilet, where they will wait until you will sit down to bit you in the butt (in my nightmares, it’s either a rat or a snake), aren’t the only ones in the market for new neighborhoods. The deadly, disgusting germs they tote around with them will be making the move, too.

But the New York Times, media’s voice of reason, reports that although it’s true that “stronger rats have probably fled the rising waters and emerged on the surface,” New Yorkers need not fear the rise of a mutant super-rat species–in fact, it may be the opposite:

The city’s health department believes the storm has had a significant impact on the rat population, for better and worse. Sam Miller, a spokesman for the department, said that some percentage have most likely died in the deep floodwaters inside the subway tunnels. “They are pretty good swimmers,” he said, “but they also drown, especially the young ones. The flooding kills them in their burrows.”

The result, he said, may be a “net reduction” in the rat population.

So, rest assured, New York–that’s at least one less thing to worry about during Sandy.

Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>