When we talk about DC rats we think of shady politicians on Capitol Hill signing bills behind closed doors. They’re is countless jokes and analogies that can be made here, especially in our political climate today.
But DC has another rat problem that’s spiraling out of control: Rattus Norvegicus, the common Norway Rat. Or what locals are calling them, ‘genius rats’.
That’s right. Actual rats. And they’re scarily adaptable too, which is why they’ve earned the term ‘genius rats’. Though they don’t compare in size to NYC’s monsters, they’re multiplying at faster speeds. This is due in part to mild winters and a spike in human population.
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It’s no surprise either. With conglomerates like Amazon choosing to put their headquarters there, and having 5 of the top ten richest counties in America in the DMV area, it’s easy to see why many are flocking there. This means more restaurants, more trash, and more rat delicacies.
How Stuff Works explains some of the reasons genius rats are able to outsmart us, even up against our best efforts to eradicate them:
To start with, they’re breeding machines. The co-hosts point out that one pair of brown rats can produce 15,000 descendants annually. They also can be dropped 50 feet (15 meters) — that’s five stories — without injuring themselves. And they’re highly adaptable. If they’re born in alley behind an Indian restaurant, for instance, they’ll develop a preference for samosas and curries. And although they don’t like to stray more than 65 feet (20 meters) from their nests, brown rats can roam great distances if needed, and even tread water for three days. They’re also very suspicious of anything new. All these factors make pest control exceptionally difficult.
In addition to their physical superpowers, rats also possess some interesting humanlike qualities. They’re very cooperative with each other, for one thing. Hattikudur says that according to a 2012 study, rats were offered a chocolate treat or the opportunity to free another rat. The rats repeatedly freed the other rat, then shared the treat. And according to research by Harvard scientists, their brains are a lot like the human brain, filled with interconnected, constantly chattering neurons.
Unfortunately, these rats aren’t as charming as NYE’s Pizza Rat. Who’s, let’s face it, just a hard working dad trying to feed his family.
With over 5,000 complaints in the city alone (not counting surrounding areas), many of them are gross and grisly.
The Washington Post highlights a few:
It’s so bad that a mother mallard that had set up a nest outside of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and had become known as #DOIduck, was chased away by a hungry rat earlier this month, as reported by my colleague Marissa Lang. The long-tailed invader then feasted on eight of her eggs and left her sole surviving offspring to hatch with no mother in sight.
And they also interviewed a man on the frontlines, who’s spent three decades studying these rodents and fully believes in ‘genius rats’:
“They are geniuses,” said Gerard Brown, program manager of the D.C. Department of Health’s rodent control division. “You don’t survive that long if you’re dumb.”
Brown could have said “smart” or “shrewd,” but neither of those words would have felt as accurate.
He knows they enjoy eating chicken.
He knows that as their families grow, some members get pushed to find new homes.
He knows that if a single whisker on a mouse’s face touches a glue strip, that mouse will learn to forever avoid that type of trap.
They create havoc in many, sometimes creative ways. Take a look at this video here, of a DC rat pulling the fire alarm of an apartment building and forcing the residents to evacuate:
Maybe these rats heard that rodents are now welcomed to the DC swamp with open arms and decided to pack up and move from NJ and NY down south, where it’s warmer and welcoming. All we know for sure is that the City of DC is doing all they can to control them, from using dry ice to poisons. The head of DC’s rodent control program, Mr. Gerard Butler, is getting a $1 million budget boost to use technology. This money is particularly allocated for the use of a rodent contraceptive.
At least someone’s birth control is getting funded, am I right?
There’s no word on how these tactics affect residents and workers in the area.
DC is getting grimier by the day. There’s something poetic about a rat infestation in our nation’s capital. There’s a lot of cleaning up to do.
— Leila Kabalan (@LeilaKaba) December 18, 2017
Just got chased down an alley in Georgetown by a Pack of #DCRats
— Anthony Hampton (@AntHampton) August 1, 2011
— Jessica Fisher (@mrsaaronfisher) May 15, 2013
A mama duck nesting on the steps of the Dept of the Interior having 8 of 9 eggs eaten by rats & abandoning the nest is probably the best metaphor for this administration’s stewardship of the environment. #DOIduck cc: @JimHowe24 https://t.co/3vlVU0fK2V
— Dr. Craig Cypher (@doctorcypher) July 9, 2018