New York City Rats Won’t Eat Just Anything

funny grey rat closeup on white background
Photo: Oleg Kozlov

That’s the takeaway from the Wall Street Journal’s report on the MTA’s new plan to lower their rodent population. Since the rats of our tunnels and platforms have learned to stay away from poison and traps, transit officials are trying to prevent future generations of horrible, greasy-furred geniuses with a bait called ContraPest, which induces early-onset menopause in females. Though ContraPest has been successfully used in rural environments, the people at Arizona-based SenesTech, which makes the product, admit that bringing it to New York presents a challenge. While country rats will happily eat birth control like it’s whatever they usually eat, urban rats are more discerning:

Winning over rattus Norvegicus, the species common to New York, means making bait that’s more alluring than the pizza crusts, discarded Chinese takeout and cold French fries littering the subway system. It is a difficulty the company acknowledged in a grant application to the National Institutes of Health … Existing baits, the company wrote, are hampered in cities by “the abundance of more palatable food choices (i.e. trash).”

So, later this month, the company’s scientists will conduct a taste-test in some of the subway’s finest trash rooms, where rats will be presented with bait flavors based on favorites like chicken nuggets and pepperoni. However, local rodent expert Robert Corrigan told the WSJ that New York pests are often more provincial than they might seem: “Rats that grow up, say, from the dumpster behind a fast food chicken place, will love chicken. Bagel place, bagels. And so on.”