Top 20 Cities at Risk for Rodent Problems

Three rats hiding under a fence

Florian Bott / Shutterstock

Rodent experts Dr. Bruce Colvin and Dale Kaukeinen completed a study in 2007 assessing cities’ risk from rodent populations. This year, d-CON provided the funding for a similar survey reflecting the economic downturn and its possible effect on urban sites and conditions that might affect rodent populations. The experts used census data, city revenues, and expenditures plus rates of unemployment and foreclosures to get the complete rodent picture.

But rats aren't the only animals these cities have to offer. MNN supplemented their scientific findings with the finer side of the animal kingdom. For each city, we've added a few appealing animal stops — for travelers, or perhaps for the residents seeking to regain some urban pride.

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New York City

Photo: By IM_photo/Shutterstock

New York City tops the list, thanks to its size, population density and age. It was also No. 1 in the experts’ original survey. The New York metropolitan area's population is the nation's largest, estimated at 18.8 million people over 6,720 square miles. The bright side: For a peek at more desirable animals, there's the Central Park Zoo, which also has the Tisch Children's Zoo where the little ones can get up close and personal with ducks, goats, sheep, alpacas and other barnyard creatures. Don't forget the Queens Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and Bronx Zoo.

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Photo: By Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Atlanta makes the list for the first time in the No. 2 slot. Greater urban areas of poverty, a high foreclosure rate (nearly five times the national average) and lower city expenditures on structures and highways contribute to its rodent problem. On the bright side: Atlanta's metro area boasts 5.3 million people who can enjoy all sorts of creatures — not just rats — at Zoo Atlanta and the Georgia Aquarium. And you might be more inclined to let your children pet the animals at the Yellow River Game Ranch and the miniature farm animals at Tanglewood Farms than you would the rats hiding under the house.

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Photo: By Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Houston lands in this spot because of a lack of municipal revenue and reduced funds spent on structures, sewers, utilities and solid waste management. The city of about 2.2 million was previously No. 2. On the bright side: You might not want to find the skeletons of dead rats under the house, but the fossil remains of dinosaurs and other creatures can be explored at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. In addition, the museum offers a realistic display of many creatures native to Texas, including alligators, river otters and mountain lions.

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the truth about …/Flickr.

Louisville, Ky., lands on the list with only half the per capita average city revenue and much lower than average spending on utilities, sewers and solid waste management. The bright side: The metro area boasts 1.2 million people, most of whom prefer to watch the horses run at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, instead of running from rats. Other creatures can be seen at the Louisville Zoo.

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Philadelphia remains in this spot with contributing factors of greater population, density, city age and family poverty. The bright side: Tourists visiting this metro area of 5.8 million might prefer feathers over fur. They can view the city by land and water with the Ride the Ducks sightseeing tour. The vehicle goes from the streets of the historic district to splashing into the waters of the Delaware River. Don't forget your Wacky Quacker — it might come in handy for scaring away the rats!

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Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Chicago has higher than average rates of poverty, unemployment and foreclosure filings, and reduced spending on sewers and utilities. Chicago previously ranked at No. 8. Its 2.8 million people make the city the third largest in the U.S. The bright side: If you'd rather see stuffed rats, you might catch some on the Wilderness Walk exhibit in the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Other creatures can be seen at the Brookfield Zoo and the Lincoln Park Zoo.

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Old and densely populated, Boston comes in at No. 7. It improved from the previous survey because of its increased spending on infrastructure. The bright side: Boston proper boasts a population of just over 605,000. If your children prefer their animals larger and cuter than rats, try the Franklin Park Zoo; if they want them wetter, visit the New England Aquarium.

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San Antonio


San Antonio has moved up from No. 14 in the last survey. The fifth fastest-growing city (2007-08) has continued to reduce spending in most infrastructure maintenance categories. The bright side: With a population of just over 2 million, San Antonio has many other animal attractions so residents and tourists alike can enjoy the exotic animals from around the world at the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch or some not-so-exotic animals like bunnies, donkeys, ducks, turkeys, guinea pigs and worms at the Fiesta Farm.

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The final 12

wildcat78/iStock Photo.

As the previous cities have shown, urban areas can't underestimate the importance of investing in infrastructure, sustainable development and urban planning. The remainder of the list still needs work in these areas to manage their own widespread rodent problems.

9. Milwaukee, Wis.

10. Detroit, Mich.

11. Columbus, Ohio

12. Baltimore, Md.

13. Oklahoma City, Okla.

14. Memphis, Tenn.

15. Portland, Ore.

16. El Paso, Texas

17. Nashville, Tenn.

18. Fort Worth, Texas

19. Jacksonville, Fla.

20. Dallas Texas

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We know rats


A few more articles from MNN on the subject:

• Scientists discover how naked mole rats stay cancer-free.

• Meet some junk food junkies of the furry kind.

• Paralyzed rats walk again with help from scientists.