In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, fears were rife that the streets would be overrun with rats escaping the flooded tunnels and subways.
But it now looks as if those fears may have been groundless as there have not, as yet, been any reports of rodents roaming the streets.
Experts are saying the water likely rushed into tunnels so fast that the rats – despite being strong swimmers – had no time to escape and died.
Sam Miller, a spokesman for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, told Forbes the city has not seen an increase in rats above ground caused by Sandy, adding that while flooding normally does drive them to the streets, it ‘also drowns young rats in their burrows and can reduce the rat population’.
Rodentologist Robert Corrigan, who works with the city on keeping populations under control, told LiveScience that baby rats will likely die unless they are carried to safety by their mothers.
Another expert, Herwig Leirs, a rodentologist at the University of Antwerp in Belgium, confirmed that most would drown.
‘Rats will be carried away by the current and won’t be strong enough to swim to the surface and breathe, or they’ll be pushed to grates, they will get stuck there and they won’t be strong enough to swim against the current,’ he said.
However, the rats that are able to survive the floodwaters will be treated to a surge of garbage and food to feast on once things have dried out.
According to NBC, approximately 28 million rats live in the subway tunnels of New York. Whether they pose a health risk in the aftermath of the hurricane depends how quickly the water evaporates and how quickly subway crews can clean out the tunnels.
Rick Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Milbrook, New York, earlier told The Huffington Post that if rats were forced out of their lairs, this could result in a rise in infectious diseases carried by urban rodents, including leptospirosis, hantavirus, typhus, salmonella, and even the plague.