New Yorkers now have to deal with cannibalistic rats during COVID-19 pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has created a turf war for rats.

As Americans continue to practice social distancing amid the deadly virus, the closing of restaurants and other businesses has created a shortage of food for rodents in New York City, which means rats around the city have been fending for themselves – and even eating their own kind.

NBC News reported the happenings in April when Bobby Corrigan, a rodentologist, warned the outlet that only the strongest rodents would survive the pandemic.

“It’s just like we’ve seen in the history of mankind, where people try to take over lands . . . and fight to the death, literally, for who’s going to conquer that land,” Corrigan told the outlet. “A new ‘army’ of rats comes in, and whichever army has the strongest rats is going to conquer that area. When you’re really, really hungry, you’re not going to act the same — you’re going to act very bad, usually.”

He placed the increased hostility on restaurant closures, which for rats was one of their top dining-out options. Corrigan said that those shutters and the fight for survival even have rats feasting on each other.

“These rats are fighting with one another; now the adults are killing the young in the nest and cannibalizing the pups,” he said.

The turn in rodents’ appetites has been witnessed in other cities, especially in homes. In Baltimore, Frank Simms, the owner of Q Pest Control, said calls about rat infestations at home have doubled since the beginning of the pandemic. He said he’s only seen similar trends during major storms, but with people cooking more in their homes, the rise in rat sightings makes sense.

“There’s more people indoors and they’re cooking more. There’s more great smells coming out of their kitchens [and it’s] quieter at night,” Simms told The Baltimore Sun.

Chicago has also been dealing with a similar migration in rats’ eating habits. The Chicago Tribune reported that hundreds of thousands of Norway rats are changing their nocturnal habits in the Windy City and searching for food from uncommon sources.

Kyle Schnitzer is a staff reporter for Ladders.