New York mulls rat birth control to tackle infestation

Rats are a common sight in the streets on subway platforms
Rats are a common sight in the streets and on subway platforms - Robert Mecea/AP

Officials in New York are considering putting local rats on birth control as part of a “shock-and-awe” plan to try to get the exploding population under control.

Salty pellets that sterilise both male and female rats could soon be administered by the city’s health department under new proposals.

Shaun Abreu, the Manhattan council member who proposed the programme, said: “We believe that we need to take a shock-and-awe approach to the rat problem by throwing everything we have at it.’’

The contraceptives – known as “ContraPest pellets” – would be used in rat migration zones that span across 10 city blocks.

The health department could soon administer salty pellets that sterilise both male and female rats
The health department could soon administer salty pellets that sterilise both male and female rats - Fatih Aktas/Anadolu

Rats are avid breeders, with just one pair having the potential to produce 15,000 pups a year.

It is thought that there are up to 3 million rats in New York.

This is not the first time officials have turned to contraceptives to rein in the rodents, which are a common sight on subway platforms and in the streets.

Back in 1967, Governor Nelson Rockefeller revealed plans to dissolve a form of oestrogen found in human birth control into vegetable oil and lacing it with foods that appeal to rats, like meat and grains.

Ten years ago the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Bryant Park also gave using contraceptives a go.

Other tactics – like poison, traps and dry ice – have so far failed to address the problem.

A sign at a construction site in warning about rat poison
A sign at a Queens construction site warning about rat poison - Lindsey Nicholson/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Mr Abreu predicted that this new push would be more effective as it will be paired with the city’s other recently introduced methods, like putting rubbish in containers and expanding composting.

He said that other attempts were unsuccessful as officials used liquid bait and did not separate off rubbish.

There are hopes that the contraceptives will be more environmentally and wildlife friendly than traditional rat poison.

Just last month the escaped Central Park Zoo owl Flaco died after ingesting such chemicals.

“Birds of prey shouldn’t have to eat rats that have rodenticide,” said Mr Abreu.

Eric Adams, the mayor of New York City, has made fighting the rodents a cornerstone initiative, appointing Kathleen Corradi as his very own rat eliminator to office last year.

Liz Garcia, a spokesman for the mayor, said earlier this week that his office would review the legislation.