One of the only things I’ve enjoyed about coronavirus is the pleasing photos and videos of previously bustling areas slowly being taken over by animals: The sheep riding a merry-go-round in England. The coyote trotting around the empty streets of San Francisco. Boars rustling around planters in Barcelona. The armies of rats eating each other due to the lack of trash for them to root through. Nature! Fantastic!
Rats have always been one of the few beneficiaries of the garbage produced by humans. But now that our activity has been reduced to practically nothing, the rats have found themselves struggling to eat. The shortage of food from their former sources—namely, restaurants and grocery stores—means that now, they’re turning on each other. As Bobby Corrigan, an urban rodentologist, told NBC:
“A restaurant all of a sudden closes now, which has happened by the thousands in not just New York City but coast to coast and around the world, and those rats that were living by that restaurant, some place nearby, and perhaps for decades having generations of rats that depended on that restaurant food, well, life is no longer working for them, and they only have a couple of choices.”
None of those choices are especially good: Cannibalism, infanticide, and “rat battles” are among the rodents’ only options for survival, at least until we resume throwing our trash all over the place like the slobs we’ve always been:
“It’s just like we’ve seen in the history of mankind, where people try to take over lands and they come in with militaries and armies and fight to the death, literally, for who’s going to conquer that land. And that’s what happens with rats,” he said. “A new ‘army’ of rats come in, and whichever army has the strongest rats is going to conquer that area.”
Several cities have reported an uptick of 311 calls about rats, and while Corrigan said that a horror movie-style rat explosion is unlikely, it’s not out of the question that they may start to show up at people’s homes and properties.
“Rats are designed to smell molecules of anything that’s food-related,” Corrigan said. “They follow those food molecules like heat-seeking missiles — and eventually you know they end up where those molecules are originating.” Just one more thing to look forward to!