New York City testing sterilization for rat control

Caroline Winter at Bloomberg Businessweek reports on a new campaign aimed at controlling the rat population in New York City:

No one knows exactly how many rodents reside in New York, but by some estimates, there may be as many rats as humans. What’s more, rats are remarkably fertile, sometimes birthing 12 pups per litter and as many as seven litters in a year.

New York’s rats may not be so fecund for long: The Metropolitan Transport Authority has kick-started a pilot program to sterilize female rats. To do this, it is teaming up with Flagstaff (Ariz.)-based SenesTech, a company that invented ContraPest, a product that, when consumed orally by rats, accelerates egg loss and can cause infertility in days.

We've written before about how rat poison ends up killing rats and everything else, so I'm interested to see how this sterilization technology works.

We focus a lot on urban design and health at TreeHugger, so I can't help but wonder if there are design solutions to this health problem, as well. Would a better trash storage system reduce access to the food source? It would not drive the rats out entirely, but the sterilization campaign seems like it would work better if it were also accompanied by better processes for reducing the overall access to food.

Another thought is maybe we try to waste less food. When an estimated 40% of food in the United States is wasted, we have some room to improve on this point. Maybe the MTA could commission a new set of these retro propaganda posters that encourage people to not waste food.

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