Manhattan rat 'patrol' - Fox 2 News Headlines

Manhattan rat 'patrol'

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

Thankfully, rats don't live in the branches of the trees on the Upper West Side of Manhattan scampering through the canopy above pedestrians on the sidewalk below. But they do burrow and nest in the ground beneath those trees.

To get them out, the city now wants to train people living in Upper West Side neighborhoods to look for rat holes in tree pits and then report those burrows so city workers can plug them up with an experimental material normally used on construction sites.

"We're hoping this will work," a moderator with the city said to a room of residents at a meeting about rats in tree pits, Monday. "We're going to see."

Rats have few friends.

"I don't like seeing them," one man told Fox 5. "They're rats."

To stay hidden, as many as nine of them live together in a burrow dug into soft dirt. In a place like Manhattan, that soft dirt is tough to find nearly everywhere except for parks and at the base of trees on the sidewalk. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene defines the latter location as a "tree pit."

"That tree pit has dog feces and urine that is also food for the rat," New York City Councilwoman Gale Brewer said.

To evict rats from their tree pit digs, the city plans on stuffing those burrows with a material through which the critters -- supposedly -- prefer not to tunnel.

"It's good for vegetation," Brewer said. "It's hopefully going to stop the rats."

New Yorkers already know what rats look like. But if the Department of Health hopes to start closing down active rat burrows, it now needs people to learn to identify where the vermin live as well. And for many, poking around the entrances of underground lairs of critters they don't really enjoy seeing ranks very low on the day's to-do list.

"I usually see people screaming and running away [when they see a rat]," one woman said.

The city admits that even if this works in every rat hole in every tree pit it only solves part of the problem. To really reduce its rat populations, the city needs more rat-proof trash cans, more people to put out their trash at night and not in the morning, and for those with pets to do a better job of cleaning up after them.

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