Could rat birth control be the solution to NYC’s persistent rodent crisis?

An overpopulation crisis in New York City had lawmakers proposing a path forward with contraceptive distribution.

(Video: NBC News)

As ever, government-caused problems begat more government and, in the case of the five boroughs still reeling from draconian COVID policies suspected of exacerbating rodent infestations, city council members introduced new legislation to address the pest problem.

Democratic NYC Council Member Shaun Abreu of Manhattan introduced a plan Thursday that called for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Department of Sanitation to work together in launching a pilot program meant to deploy rat contraceptives throughout the city to stem the drastically increasing population.

“We believe that we need to take a shock-and-awe approach to the rat problem by throwing everything we have at it,” Abreu said to The New York Times after the council member introduced his bill which aimed to distribute contraceptives from ContraPest.

The ContraPest pellets were reportedly designed to impact both the male and female rat reproductive systems of which a single pair could be responsible for producing a lineage of 15,000 rats in one year.

“What’s very important about the rat problem is that we can’t kill our way out of this,” argued Abreu to Fox 5. “This is a crisis. We cannot poison our way out because the growth of rats is so exponential.”

Opposition to the use of rodenticides traced back to the death of an owl, dubbed Flaco, that had gained acclaim in the city before rat poison was listed as a contributing factor in its death.

“Flaco deserved a city that doesn’t poison its own wildlife,” wrote Abreu on X. “Today I was honored to stand with @LightsOutNYS as I introduced legislation that would pilot a humane alternative to rodenticides: rat contraceptives. It’s more effective and far safer for birds of prey.”

The latest move followed a decision by New York Mayor Eric Adams (D) to name the city’s first-ever rat czar, as a salary between $120,000 and $170,000 was awarded to the director of space planning for the NYC Department of Education Kathleen Corradi after the population swelled from roughly 2.3 million to over 3 million in two years.

Many suspected that the COVID lockdowns and other related policies like popup outdoor dining had contributed to the growing infestation as certain aspects of sanitation slipped by the wayside.

In promoting the contraceptive, which would be distributed through monitored rat mitigation zones, SenesTech CEO Ken Siegel, whose company produced the ContraPest pellets, told Fox News the sweet liquid formula was like a “milk shake” for rats.

Likewise, creator Loretta Mayer had told the New York Times “It’s better than pizza [for the rats],” and she had also explained, “…The approach is to feed them, not bait them. But while you’re feeding them, you block their reproduction.”

As it happened, the city had previously attempted contraceptives against rodents, as recently as about a decade ago and in the 1960s under then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller (R), but both plans were said to have only targeted females.

Kevin Haggerty


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