NEW YORK — There are millions of rats in New York City, and — usually, blessedly — they remain hidden, under the streets, inside subway tunnels and in and around the waterfront.
Hurricane Sandy, though, has changed that.
The city’s health department believes the storm has had a significant impact on the rat population, for better and worse.
Sam Miller, a spokesman for the department, said that quite a few of them had most likely died in the deep floodwaters inside the subway tunnels. “They are pretty good swimmers,” he said, “but they also drown, especially the young ones. The flooding kills them in their burrows.”
The result, he said, may be a “net reduction” in the rat population.
Now for the bad news. The stronger rats probably fled the rising waters and emerged on the surface. Miller said the health department had yet to observe an increase on the streets and sidewalks, but he added, “We’re monitoring that.”
According to the department’s rodentologist (yes, that is a job title), New Yorkers need not worry about increased numbers of rats in terms of disease.
“There’s no demonstrated health risk from flushed-out rats,” said Miller, noting that the predominant species in the city was the Norway rat.