The Next Frontier in New York’s War on Rats: Birth Control

For nearly 60 years, New York City leaders have understood that they could not kill their way out of the rat problem.

Rats are prodigious breeders, with one pair having the potential to produce 15,000 descendants in a year. City officials have tried repeatedly to give them contraceptives and diminish their ranks, but the rats have prevailed.

Now, citing advancements in rodent birth control and trash storage, the City Council wants to try again.

A new bill being introduced on Thursday would require the city’s health department to deploy salty pellets that sterilize both male and female rats as part of a pilot program. It would take place in two neighborhoods within so-called rat mitigation zones covering at least 10 city blocks.

The bill’s sponsor, Shaun Abreu, a council member from northern Manhattan, said that this attempt would be more effective than past efforts, particularly when paired with the city’s broader push to fight rats, which involves putting trash in containers and expanding composting.

“We believe that we need to take a shock-and-awe approach to the rat problem by throwing everything we have at it,” he said.

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