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Study on rats in Chicago: rats like garbage, and most rats are in places with the most complaints



According to researchers at Lincoln Park Zoo who study Chicago vermin, urban rat science needs more work.

But a new study released Wednesday helps to expand the field. It shows that Chicago rats are indeed more prevalent in the areas that attract the most complaints from citizens, mainly in high-density neighborhoods to the north and northwest.

In another key conclusion from the study of 13 out of 77 of Chicago's official "community areas", there is a strong correlation between the presence of open waste and a preponderance of rats.

But the alleged status of Chicago as the "rat capital" American (according to a summer report from an apartment search service) and its high number of complaints from rats compared to others Cities Deny the City's Better Control of Rats Than Many of Its According to Rebecca Fyffe, research director for Landmark Pest Management, a private company that helped the zoo conduct this study.

"I went to New York and New Orleans to look at the rat problems and they have much more serious problems than Chicago," she said. "Boston also has an incredible number of rat problems. I know New York does. I go out with night vision goggles, and I count rats and safaris, and I did them in Chicago and New York, and New York seems twice as late as Chicago. "

But whether or not Chicago was a second city – or a third or fourth – for rodents was not the focus of the study. It was to control our rats, as numerous as they are.

"We really want to understand the rat's ecology in order to know your enemy," said Maureen Murray, lead author of the study and wildlife ecologist at Urban Zoo Institute and Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology. . "If you can understand rats, you may be able to find a way to minimize conflicts between rats and people."

His key advice? "Put away your waste. The easiest way to ensure that rats stay away is to deposit the waste in closed bins. "

This is especially important because the more rats eat, the more they are able to reproduce. (Note on the belly turning: put your dog poop in these bins too, as it's a nutrient-rich food on which rats grow.)

The study had a corollary benefit for those who fear that science will be lost in esoteric matters to the detriment of more practical concerns: it was achieved by capturing and killing 61 of our crumbling citizens.

This occurred between April and June of this year and was conducted by Landmark, a private science-based pest control company that works with zoo researchers. Traps were placed in lanes in economically diverse areas, from which rat problems reported by the city's 311 line were reported.

Analysis of the study of more than 46,000 rat complaints from April 2017 to April 2018 showed that they were more concentrated in the northern and northwestern neighborhoods and that they were also areas where the lots were the least vacant and the most renting.

The new data is part of an urban context characterized by increased rat control efforts and extensive publicity in recent years. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has increased Chicago's budget for rat control, and the city has used innovative strategies, including sterilization of rats; fill their dens with dry ice, which emits CO2 that suffocates the inhabitants; and lose wild cats on them.

"I think the city is doing a fabulous job of controlling rats," Fyffe said. She thinks the city has more complaints than her peers because she is doing a better job of asking residents to report rats and following incoming calls, she said.

Fyffe, the second author of the study, published Wednesday in the online journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

"It's important to know, because we would be a failure as managers of urban wildlife if the control services of urban rats were not distributed according to need," she said.

Chicago is focusing on controlling the rats where the calls come from, and what the study proves is that this strategy is sound, she said. In other words, said Fyffe, it's not about "the squeaky wheel gets fat."

With regard to the association between the prevalence in rats and what the newspaper calls "unconfined garbage", it indicates simple and obvious measures that citizens and owners can take to combat rats alone.

"People make choices about how they throw their garbage. They need to know the impact, "she said.

Murray added, "Among the various attractants (rats) we measured, litter clearly emerged as the most important."

Zoo researchers are continuing their studies of the city's rats, including examining rat carcasses to determine the type of diseases they could carry and the stress levels of their bodies.

"Rats are an excellent example of a species that really thrives in cities around the world," said Murray, "and we're certainly not, you know, we're not going to live with them for so long." early."

sajohnson@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @StevenKJohnson

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