NYC Fights Vermin with Geek Supertools

Rat sighting are down 80 to 90 percent across the city, thanks to … databases?

New York City officials have been squaring off with vermin populations for a long time. It's a grand, epic and ongoing battle. But according to a new report from the city's health department, the tide is finally turning thanks to the power of ... information!

Yes, that's right -- it's rats versus databases in Gotham these days, and the databases are winning. Rat sightings are down 80 to 90 percent across the city, following the implementation of a new strategy initiated by Mayor Bill de Blasio last year.

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The so-called Rat Indexing program tracks vermin populations at the source, sussing out massive underground "rat reservoirs" by looking for particular patterns in rat sightings. The numbers are fed into database programs to help determine when and where to to place traps. The city has also hired a new platoon of exterminators and sanitarians -- a sort of special ops squad dedicated solely to rat catching.

According to this interesting report at Motherboard, that's just the beginning of the high tech offensive. Public health researchers recently concluded a study in which they tracked rats moving through and underneath the city -- by way of implanted RFID chips.

Modern rat catchers, it seems, are equipped with some heavy duty technology. Rat traps were baited not with food, but rather with special-recipe pheromones designed to appeal to the rodent heart. Researchers also used digital cameras and ultraviolet light machines that can discern between old routes the rats have abandoned and new routes that the little rascals are constantly trailblazing.

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It's serious business for public health agencies, in that rats are famously efficient carriers of disease. In fact, Motherboard cites an alarming 2014 study in which a sampling of New York City rats were found to be carrying 18 pathogens previously unknown to science. Studies suggest that increasing urbanization and climate change will mean even more rats in coming years.

New York City -- America's number one pestropolis -- is not messing around. The city's heath department even offers a three-day Rodent Academy for homeowners, property managers and restaurateurs who want to prepare for battle.

Once more, New York City, into the breach!