New York City’s Proactive Approach to Rat Management and the 2013 Rodent Academy

By Marcia Anderson

Rat Management

Rat Management

The New York City 2013 Rodent Academy was sponsored jointly by the NYC Department of Health (NYCDOH) and the EPA Region2. The academy also drew people involved in rodent control from the National Parks Service and pest management professionals from Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Alaska.

The responsibility of dealing with rats in the city is shared among NYCDOH, city building owners, and the City Departments of buildings, transportation, sanitation and parks. Unlike the other city departments, however, the NYCDOH has an ‘Emergency Response Team’- a group of exterminators to help out other city agencies with severe rodent challenges. A call to NYC’s 3-1-1 number about a rodent issue brings a prompt response.

We learned that NYC is taking an aggressive and proactive approach to pest management including inspections and compliance assistance. Inspectors go out into the community, block by block, and inspect for evidence of rodent activity, rodent entry points, runways, harborages, and more. They educate building managers, home owners and the general public on how to prevent rodents and conduct up to 140,000 of these inspections per year. After they educate those responsible for properties in violation, they follow-up at sites where people have remediated rat infestation problems. These proactive inspections were first conducted in the Bronx and Manhattan, and now include Brooklyn and Queens.

This pest inspection program uses hand held devices to reduce paperwork enabling more people to remain on the streets and in the communities to deal with rodent problems. The results of this work are available on the NYC Rat portal website.

The NYC DOH does not just bait and trap. They use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which is a science-based decision-making process that identifies and reduces risks from pests and pest management related strategies. IPM employs horticultural, mechanical, physical and biological controls with selective use of pesticides when needed. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pests by the most economical means and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment. IPM is not a single pest control method but, rather, a series of pest management evaluations, decisions and controls.

Rats are monitored to determine the extent of the rodent problem at any site. Participants learned that NYC is not only monitoring with tracking powders, but is utilizing some new biomarkers. After consumption of new baits, a bio-florescent marker is left in the rodent droppings making the droppings visible by black light. This helps to identify how rodents are traveling from nest to food sources and back. It can also help measure a rat colony range, and determine if rodents are entering from the outside and invading buildings along a particular wall or through a specific opening that needs to be sealed.

In NYC, rats have had at least 200 years to become established, multiply and learn areas and harborages in which to feed, hide and thrive. City infrastructure like sewers, stream and water tunnels, subways, parks, refuse collection, highways, streets and seaports provides innumerable harborage sites throughout our metropolis. Some hidden harborages may include:  ground earthen burrows, beneath sidewalks and curbs, within interior and exterior structure voids, old sewer system tunnels, subway platforms and track tunnels, and within construction materials.

On the third day, the Rodent Academy participants visited numerous sites around lower Manhattan to improve their ability to identify rat burrows, runways, harborages and food sources. Look for a discussion of some of these sites in upcoming ‘Rodent Academy Part 2’ blog.

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

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