Rats, beware of the booze: New York hopes a new alcohol bucket will stop its infestation

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Peace out, Pizza Rat. Au revoir, Ratatouille. Sayonara, Stewart Little. Your days are numbered.

Well, at least that’s what Eric Adams, Brooklyn borough president, thinks.

On Thursday at the Brooklyn Borough Hall, Adams unveiled what he hopes will be the definitive weapon in New York’s rat war — a conflict long dominated by rodent-kind. To a gaggle of gagging reporters he flashed a rancid rat stew, contained in what was, essentially, a high-tech plastic bucket. A release for the event said Adams would “display 90 rats caught during new pilot program,” but there were actually only about 20 in the new trap.

The two-tiered device being rolled out — called the Ekomille, imported from Italy — holds bait on top, which the rats feed on. This feeding then triggers a mechanism that releases trap doors, plunging the rat into a deathly concoction of alcohol, in which they eventually drown.

Adams says current measures to rid the city of rodents are pointless. Nothing, from expensive poison candy to rat birth control, has worked.

“We need a comprehensive rat plan — number one, these devices,” he told Gothamist. “This cost effective, humane treatment has shown us a way to really address this issue of rat infestations.”

But at least one rodentologist says the New York plan is a cruel one. “Any veterinarian in the world would tell you that drowning is an incredibly inhumane way to kill a mammal,” Bobby Corrigan told Gothamist. “I have no idea how that’s considered humane.”

President of Rat Trap Inc., Anthony Giaquinto (L) joins Brooklyn Borough President Eric. L. Adams (C) as he announces the results of a pilot program aimed at curbing the rat population around Brooklyn Borough Hall on September 5, 2019 in New York. ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images

In contrast a spokesperson for Rat Trap Inc., the company that controls the traps, said rat poisons take longer to kill the animal and can be harmful for other wildlife.

Meanwhile in Toronto, different city departments handle the growing rat crisis, defending the people by using rodent-proof green bins and bait in the sewers, among a few other strategies. However, the city will reveal a revamped rat mitigation strategy at the end of the year. “This report will include a review of what other jurisdictions, including New York, implement as solutions to help control rats,” Toronto spokesperson Kris Scheuer said.

Rat numbers have grown from 472 complaints to the city in 2014 to 924 this year, CityNews reported.

The New York traps were tested on the local borough hall grounds — each one costing between $300 to $400 — but of the five laid, only four remained. One giant rat even managed to destroy a device.

“He was sticking out of the unit,” an employee told Gothamist. “First time I’ve seen that.”

Outside the building, a man displayed the noxious rat slurry, featuring floating alcohol-logged corpses. He submerged a ladle resembling a pooper scooper into the lethal bath, and extracted one carcass after another in a sick display.

Warning: the following video is pretty gross.

Devices aside, Adams said New York City’s human residents bear much of the responsibility for curbing the local rat population.

“New Yorkers need to understand that they have a role in stopping this,” he said. “I don’t believe we have built in a right culture of how to dispose of our garbage. People have not made the connection between what your neighbours are doing with their garbage, and how this feeds the problem.”

Rat sightings reported to the city’s 311 hotline have soared nearly 38 per cent, to 17,353 last year, up from 12,617 in 2014, according to an analysis of city data by OpenTheBooks.com, a nonprofit watchdog group, and the New York Times. In the same period, the number of times that city health inspections found active signs of rats nearly doubled.

With files from the New York Times.