Rodents Run Amok! How Much of a Threat Do Rats Pose?

Written by NYPress on . Posted in Miscellaneous, News Our Town, News Our Town Downtown, NY Press Exclusive, Our Town, Our Town Downtown.


Another subway unnerves New Yorkers

by Nick Gallinelli

Bansky Rat Mural - photo courtesy of Flickr Commons

We’ve all had the dream— where we’re standing in front of a large audience, larger than reasonably possible, and we’re stark naked. Fortunately for us, we’ve probably never actually experienced that dream in reality. Unfortunately for , a 40-year-old New Yorker, she did (albeit in front of a much, much smaller audience) experience that in real life.

Vargas, while riding the on June 8, was accosted by a rat that crawled up her pants and forced her to divest her pants, exposing her underwear, and pride, to the entire train car.

“He was very big. I was shaking, but nothing was coming out . . . I had to pull my pants down in front of everyone on the train,” Vargas told the Daily News.

After the frisk, police and EMTs were quick to respond and met Vargas at the next station, Columbus Circle. They brought her to the hospital and treated her for scratches, and fortunately Vargas wasn’t severely hurt. The furtive rat ended up fleeing the scene, and the NYPD has surprisingly made no plan to track down the frisky critter.

In retrospect, there of course is a humorous hint to the story, but it does get one to think— at what risk are we of rodent attacks? How often does it even happen?

The answer: It’s not impossible, but not very likely.

Since the beginning of 2011 there have been three reported rat attacks on NY citizens, including Vargas’s.

  1. January 2011 – CBS reported that a rat, trapped in a subway car, scurried along the floor looking for a way out when he latched on to a man’s leg and crawled up to his face. The man seemed to be unharmed despite clumsy defense tactics.
  2. September 2011 –A woman waiting on a platform in the when she suffered a rodent attack. This time, she wasn’t used as a ladder, but as a snack. A rat bit her foot, causing the woman to bleed, according to the Daily News.

Three attacks in 18 months doesn’t seem extreme, but there are a few other numbers that make the case a bit more creepy.

Throughout NYC’s history there have been a variety of different rat species. Decades ago there were up to five different types living both above and underground, but that number has been reduced to two. and are the only species inhabiting New York currently. But that’s because the brown rat has violently extirpated the other species and is known to attack any other specie of rat at first sight. These rats, though often unseen, do indeed mingle among subway riders.

A study released by the released in February found that rats were present in roughly 11% of underground subway stations, although it didn’t specify as to where (It also found exposed wiring in 28% of platforms).

These facts, overall, caused to name New York the U.S. city most vulnerable to rat attacks in 2007, specifically citing deteriorating infrastructure.

At least the Bronx Zoo seems to have its tigers under control.

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