The Post-Sandy New York City Rat Invasion Everyone Said Wouldn't Happen Has Begun

The experts said it would all be OK. They told us there would be no rat invasion of New York City after Superstorm Sandy. The scientists swore to us that the rats would not flow from their underground burrows in a squirming tidal wave of horror, fleeing the rising waters.

The experts were wrong. The rat invasion of New York City has begun. Maybe.

"Driven from shorelines, the rodents came inland, in droves," writes the New York Times today. The Times article follows with a parade of horror stories from a city seemingly besieged by rats:

Shortly after the storm, exterminators were inundated with calls from Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights and Lower Manhattan. And once the rats were resettled, they grew accustomed to their surroundings, feasting on the garbage created by the hurricane as well as by the normal churn of the winter holidays.

"They became so bad I couldn't even take all the jobs," said Jonathan Vargas, a partner with All Day Exterminating, who estimated that his rat complaint calls doubled in number after Hurricane Sandy.

News of a rat invasion comes as a surprise. During Sandy's immediate aftermath, actual scientists and everything said there was no cause for alarm. At the time, I spoke to a veteran rat hunter who assured me that the rats might be temporarily disturbed by the floods but would soon return to their normal habitats.

"There will be a lot of activity and then they'll die down," he said.

But now rats are running wild in the streets? Crashing our homes like disease-ridden Air BnB guests? I called the rat hunter up again: Robert L. Reynolds, leader of the Ryder's Alley Trencher-fed Society, a group of dog-owners who unleash their working Terriers onto the streets of Manhattan to hunt and slaughter rats. Roberts took issue with the Times story. He told me he hadn't seen any more rats.

"We have seen absolutely no change whatsoever in the demographics," Reynolds said. "In fact it's so stable that it's scary." Reynolds has been out rat hunting in alleys and abandoned buildings about four times since the storm hit, everywhere from Lower Manhattan, to the Upper East Side, to Riverside Park on the Upper West Side.

So who do we believe: The exterminators who might be knowledgable but have a natural incentive to exaggerate the threat of rats? Or the hobbyist? We'll see in a few weeks when New York either is or is not gnawed to a raw nubbin by hordes of rats.

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