When Sandy flooded Lower Manhattan, many New Yorkers left their homes. So did the rats.
“They were relocated during the time of the flood,” said Timothy Wong, whose pest control company, M&M Environmental, has seen an increase in rat-related calls since the storm. “There’s a lot of areas for rats to really roam.”
Some exterminators believe the rats moved from soggy spaces underground into apartments and drier neighborhoods where they’re more likely to find food.
“I’ve seen rats carrying apples,” said Jeff Woods, who has been a rat control technician for three years. “That’s all they care about, is food.”
Woods uses snap traps, glue boards and poison cubes to help homeowners and restaurant managers try and eliminate the relentless rodents.
But New York City’s Health Department insists there is no rat surge.
“The Health Department conducted extensive inspections in flood zones after Hurricane Sandy, provided guidance to home owners and baited the area,” said Veronica Lewin, a department spokeswoman. “But we did not see an increase in the rat population, and rat complaints to 311 were lower after the storm than in the previous year."
"Large storms can flush out rats, but they also drown many rats, and the net effect of large storms is often a decrease in the rat population," said Lewin.
Regardless of whether you believe the rodent population went up or down, few experts dispute that there are millions of rats in New York City. Eliminating them is very difficult.
“I tell anybody who wants to open a restaurant or buy a house or move into a new apartment to fill every single hole that’s there,” said Woods, the rat control expert. “Secure any entryway. Once they know you’re in there and you’re cooking, they’re going to come in.”
He added, “They’ll come in because they’re curious, looking for things.”