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As temperatures increase, so do rat populations

The warmer weather creeping into cities across America is cause for international concern, but there’s one group that loves it– rats. The impact of climate change on pests and disease is widely studied and cited as a reason to worry at the local level, but the rise in rat populations specifically is hard to quantify. While lab rats are studied ad nauseum, ‘wild’ urban rats are mostly taboo for the scientific community, however, scientists are confident that even without scientific studies the number of rats is climbing.

Recent news headlines have even warned city dwellers about the coming “ratpocalypse.” In New York City, the rat population could be anywhere between two and 32 million, but warmer weather gives rats a longer time frame to reproduce and that number– whatever it is– will grow exponentially. Rats typically hibernate in the winter, but during warmer months a female rat can have up to 72 pups. Each of those pups reaches sexual maturity after just one month, which means one female rat can create over 15,000 rats in just a year.

Related: Climate twins: which city will your city feel like in 2080?

The longer breeding season and overpopulation aren’t the only problem with rats. They are carriers of many diseases and pests– including ticks, fleas, bubonic plague and E.Coli. Increased rat infestations will likely cause an increase in incidences of sickness among humans, especially since contact with rat urine or feces alone is often enough to spread the contagion.

With rising urban populations, rats are likely to increase even without the additional help of the climate crisis, so cities around the country will have to get serious about rat control. Last year, New York’s Mayor de Blasio launched a $32 million project to exterminate rats.

There’s finally something that liberals and conservatives can agree on– we don’t want the ratpocalypse.

Via Grist

Image via DSD