High-tech rat traps deployed across New York City use popular snack food as lures

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High-tech rat traps that are increasingly being deployed around New York City to deal with a rising rodent problem utilize Oreos as a food lure, according to the trap’s manufacturer.

The New York Times reported late last week that several locations — mostly eateries with outdoor dining — are using the traps to deal with a growing rat population. In addition, the paper noted, Mayor-elect Eric Adams was so impressed with them he plans to deploy the devices as well.

“The Italian-made battery-operated device…is a new development in controlling New York’s four-legged foes,” the paper noted, adding that Adams has “called the traps ‘amazing’ and vowed to explore deploying them across the five boroughs once he is officially leading City Hall.”

But it’s what designers use to lure in the rats that has led to more than a few smirks.

“Peanut butter Oreos are the best,” Jim Webster, Rat Trap Distribution’s operations director, told the Times as he was installing the device outside of Casa La Femme, an Egyptian restaurant in West Village.

Here’s how the devices work: The scent of the crumbled-up cookies, which are scattered in the top portion of the two-part trap, lure in the rats along with sunflower seeds. The rodents are ‘allowed’ to become used to going into and out of the trap for about a week, to eat as much as they want.

But, said Webster, after the rats began to frequent the trap and “get comfortable, the device gets turned on and a platform drops them into the lower portion of the trap, which is filled with a blue alcohol-based liquid, dunking-booth fashion, like those seen at carnivals.

Four one-gallon jugs of the “proprietary” formula are emptied into the bottom portion of the device, Webster said, where the vapors “knock the rat unconscious.” The blue liquid is then topped off with sunflower oil to “eliminate odor” from decomposing rat bodies.

Needless to say, not everyone approves of the devices or the manner in which the rats are ‘disposed of,’ including the animal rights org People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). In a statement, the group said it would rather see rodent control methods that focus on cleaning up garbage and sealing entry points, “not finding new ways to torment and kill small animals who are simply trying to live their lives, just like any other New Yorker.”

The company, Rat Trap Distribution, was founded in 2019 by Yonkers resident Pat Marino, the Times reported. Though he did not have a professional background in pest control, he had heard about the Italian device and believed he had discovered a business opportunity.

“He became the sole United States distributor for the manufacturer, boned up on rat stats — two of them can produce 15,000 descendants in a year, according to National Geographic — and opened an office in Maspeth, Queens,” the Times reported.

“I became a ratologist,” he told the paper.

Marino’s company signed a contract with Yonkers, which leases the devices for $250 per month, though he picked up more business in New York City over the fall, where between 150 and 175 of the traps are now installed around the city.

Rental covers the cost of servicing the traps, which “includes double-wrapping and disposal of the carcasses,” the Times reported.

Jon Dougherty


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