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WHO HAS MORE RATS? BOSTON OR THE NATION’S CAPITAL?

By Chris Williams on August 27, 2019.

No, this isn’t a trick political question. Something seems to be going on with our nation’s cities and rats? Cities, of course, always have a resident rat population that fluctuates; citizen complaints about rats also fluctuate and media coverage fluctuates as a result. Lately though, it seems like the rats are winning the street battle as cities everywhere reluctantly admit to serious rat problems that only seem to be increasing despite control efforts.

Norway rat in a drain. Shutterstock.

These are just a couple of recent headlines from what we would call reputable online news sources: LA Now the “City of Rats”? Report Warns of “Alarming Increase” in Rodent Population (CBS Los Angeles), and New York City Removed 110 Trash Cans. Now Garbage is Overflowing and the Rats are “Running Wild” (USA Today). Then, the apartment rental website, RentHop, decided to help us sort it all out by presenting its annual rat study that compares U.S. rodent complaints for five major cities.

CHICAGO IS STILL THE U.S. “RAT CAPITAL”

The windy city logged in a whopping 40,057 rodent complaints in 2018. That was actually down from 2017 when Chicago received 50,963 rodent complaints—almost 3 times more than New York City! But when you’re a city of 2.7 million people as is Chicago, you expect a few rats in the mix.

BALTIMORE RATS VS. WASHINGTON, D.C. RATS?

Maybe Donald Trump started the whole city rat competition with his attack on filthy Baltimore and its rats. Actually though, Washington D.C. (the President’s sometimes home) is more rodent-infested than Baltimore according to RentHop’s data: In 2018, D.C. received 5,715 complaints or 83.6 per square mile compared to Baltimore’s 48.5 per square mile. Baltimore is one city where rat complaints have been decreasing since 2015 thanks to the efforts of its Rat Rubout Crew.

BROOKLYN RATS VS. MANHATTAN RATS?

While Brooklyn remains New York City’s top rat borough, Manhattan’s complaints per square mile were an amazing 188.2 rat sightings, higher than the other four boroughs.

SO HOW DID BOSTON FARE RAT-WISE?

Norway rat on a city sidewalk. Shutterstock.

RentHop decided to include Boston in its city rat study for the first time this year thinking that the historic city’s old infrastructure with crumbling building foundations, outdated subway and sewer systems and city parks might prove to be an ideal habitat for rodents. Instead, they found that, compared to the other four big cities included in the annual study, Boston has had the least number of rodent complaints (Yay!). In 2018, Boston tallied 2,732 complaints or 30.5 per square mile, 80% fewer than Chicago.

Boston rodent complaints steadily roll in from May to September, but then drop off pretty drastically during winter months. In most of these cities studied, rat complaints peak in July or August and are at their lowest point from December to February.

WHICH BOSTON NEIGHBORHOODS HAVE THE MOST RATS?

Where do most of Boston’s rat complaints come from? Apparently, Downtown, North End, and Bay Village top the list with plenty of complaints also coming from Mission Hill, Mattapan, and West Roxbury. RentHop has spotted an interesting trend in Boston. Areas of Boston with higher rent tend to have more rodent complaints. Now, we don’t believe for a minute that these areas actually have more rats than low rent districts. Perhaps the residents of high rent districts are less rat-tolerant and they know how to complain and who to complain to.

Jamaica Plain and Fenway, rat complaints are down in your neighborhoods by more than 50% in the past year. Good job! If you want to see how your Boston neighborhood compared on the rat-o-meter, check out RentHop’s interactive neighborhood rat map.

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