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For years Chicago has been known to have a rat problem. Orkin Pest Control called Chicago the rattiest city in the entire United States. It has the highest rat infestation rate, with Los Angeles coming in second and New York in third. This ranking is not a new development for the city either. Orkin has ranked Chicago as the most rat-infested city for the last seven years.
Recently however the presence of rats has increased in the city. Orkin entomologist Ben Hottel stated that the rats have spread to residential areas as a result of the pandemic closing of restaurants and other businesses. Without the usual food supply, the rats had to branch out from their usual habitats, making residential areas a more ideal location, as they contained more food. This migration resulted in a change of behavior as well. The rodents began displaying more aggressive tendencies and have begun settling into these residential communities.
In an interview with local Chicago exterminator Michael Green, he revealed his opinions about the state of Chicago’s rat population. He explained the size difference in rats between when he first became an exterminator and now. He said, “I would start off catching them, maybe the size of a squirrel, now I’m catching them the size of a Yorkie dog.”
When Green was younger his grandfather would take him hunting. His granddad taught him how to hunt and clean raccoons, rabbits, and other small critters.
Later people would ask him about their raccoon issues in their attics. He said “sure” and before he knew it his extermination business was created.
“The West Side was so full of coons. The worst thing though wasn’t the coons it was the super rats. They were rats that you can actually shoot with a .22 rifle and they would keep moving like you never hit them,” described Green. “You would have to have something that is actually going to hit them and actually bust them open.”
Super rats are larger and more resistant to traditional pest control methods. Rat poisons and other pest control methods have become so aggressive that a majority of rat colonies have been wiped out. The only rats that remain are the largest and most fit for survival. Scientists have even located specific genes in rats that make them resistant to rat poisons. This poses an enormous issue for the city of Chicago, which already spends over $10 million on its bureau for rat control.
If that was not enough, a mutated super rat was discovered in London in 2016. It was discovered by a man named Tony Smith, who found the dead super rat near a playground. Upon closer examination, he believed it weighed over 25 pounds and was around 4 feet in length. He said that it was larger than both his cat and his Jack Russel, and was easily the largest rodent he had ever laid his eyes on. The occurrence of this mutation occurs once and opens the possibility for more behemoth super rats in the future.
The recent boom in the rat population begs the question of what can be done on a personal level to deal with the pests. Orkin says the preventative measures to avoid a rat infestation are to store food in metal or glass containers, clear away clutter like cardboard or anything else rats can nest in, seal cracks in your house, and keep an eye out for signs of rodents like droppings. Green adds: “Take the garbage out every day, make sure you don’t leave dishes in the sink…, clean everything so there’s nothing left for them to eat.”
How to effectively deal with rats in Chicago as a whole is an ongoing struggle. Chicago as a whole is an ongoing struggle. Green says the city is not doing enough to stop the spread of rats. “[The city] needs to spend more money and get the right kind of poison to start killing these things.”
Written by Joseph Nelson
Interview: Micheal Green on May 5, 2022
The U.S. Sun: RAT ATTACK‘Invincible super rats’ are taking over US cities – and it may be our fault, experts say
ABC7: Chicago ranked ‘rattiest city’ by Orkin pest control for 7th straight year
Fox32 Chicago: Giant rat ‘bigger than a dog’ near playground
Images Courtesy of TNS Staff