I first heard of Dr. Austin M. Frishman from an exterminator. The guy is a rat guru, said Adam Vasquez. He knows everything about them. Most academics cant claim such a devoted following among rat men, but Dr. Frishmans not like most academics.
Hes a man with a singular mission: to understand everything about, and ultimately to conquer, the insurgent vermin population. I respect rats, he says. Im amazed at their ability to adjust, learn, and survive. But I despise them when theyre living with people. They are terrible animals. He has set new records of expertise in his field: Since receiving the third-ever Ph.D. in structural pest control, he founded a department in a similar discipline at SUNY-Farmingdale, then went into business. He now answers the cries of farmers, government agencies, shop owners, and independent contractors overwhelmed by their rat problems. These missions have taken him over 2 million miles.
After all hes seen, he still has a special appreciation for New Yorks plague of rats. The citys structure, he says, is their best ally. Youve taken 7 1/2 million people and pushed them together with their food and water and waste. If you have a field of corn and you put rats in there, theyll take over. And thats what Manhattan is, except we grow buildings and garbage.
Some need-to-know rat facts, according to Dr. Frishman: Rats can climb out of toilets. They can scale buildings. They mature sexually at three months, and one litter can contain 22 babies -- which theyll eat if hungry enough. Their urine contains salmonella. (But so many things do, he says with a sigh.) And worst of all, they grow bolder with age. Theyll chew on an invalid because the person cant move. If a child has food on his face, theyll lick it off. And when they bite, they gnaw to the bone.
Despite the odds, hes impressed by the citys recent extermination efforts, adding, The mayors done a lot to help. But he knows that time favors the rats. Money is put towards pest control when the wrong rat shows up in the wrong spot. And then when you have a program going well, they pull the funds and the rats rebound, he says. You cant evaluate the success of a rat program by how many you kill, but by how many you leave.