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Why rats in major cities aren’t even being monitored

In cities across the globe, rats are considered to be major pests that seem to be everywhere you turn. These rodents are known to spoil food, spread disease, and even start fires.

Despite these problems, a new study has found that rats are actually the least studied wildlife in New York City. “The most difficult challenge of urban rat research is finding suitable research sites (e.g. municipal businesses and dwellings) to obtain access to rats long enough to generate robust science,” explain the study’s authors in the Journal of Urban Ecology.

In order to conquer this challenge, the researchers have offered rather significant incentives to property owners in order to study the rats on their premises. These perks include free and confidential extermination services – after the rats have been studied, of course – and up to a $1,000 reward for information leading to research sites in Manhattan.

With greater access to private residences or businesses, researchers would be able to set up their expensive equipment and monitor the rats’ activity privately. Because rats are so perfectly adapted to their environment, they’re incredibly difficult to research without the proper set up. They can easily hide and avoid human contact.

The researchers believe that a better understanding of the ecology of city rats could lead to improvements in pathogen and disease surveillance, as well as a better understanding of their population distribution.

“We neglect to study them at our own peril,” says Michael Parsons, lead author of the study. “No war has ever decimated 1/3 of the human population. Rats have.”

Whether or not another black plague is in the future (let’s hope for “not”), studying these pests that inhabit many of the areas where we live and work can only help us to better understand them.

By Connor Ertz, Staff Writer

Source: Journal of Urban Ecology, The Daily Mail

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