Which actually makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. Per the explanation of Thomas Lamb, the MTA’s chief of innovation and technology, “We basically just bait, trap and kill. If we just continue to do that, every year we’ll have the same expense and the same result.”
The only real problem here, experts say, is convincing cultured, finicky New York Rats to actually eat the birth control, given “the abundance of more palatable food choices (i.e. trash).” Of course.
So, partnering with the specialists at Senes Tech Inc., the MTA is launching a rat taste test later this month, in hopes of finding an effective means of feeding our subway rats a special kind of birth control that causes early-onset menopause in females.
“Rats in Laos, they like coconut. But the rats in Indonesia prefer fish flavor,” said Loretta Mayer, the company’s co-founder. “You have to be very much one with the animal. We really won’t know [what works] until we get in there.”
Rat scientists are therefore considering use of pepperoni and fake chicken nugget smell, as well as a list of preferred flavors compiled by “renowned rodentologist” and city adviser Dr. Robert Corrigan, including “doughnuts, cookies, chocolate bars, peanuts, mayonnaise packets, apples and cucumbers.” Even with those extensive options, urban rats’ palates are apparently as specific and arbitrary as those of the humans they like to terrify. “Rats that grow up, say, from the dumpster behind a fast food chicken place, will love chicken,” said Dr. Corrigan. “Bagel place, bagels. And so on.”
Ridiculous. Now, jokes about fancy rats and Ratatouille aside, this is actually a relatively smart, humane option for the MTA’s considerable pest management problem, so best of luck to them in making this whole thing work. In the meantime, stop thinking you’re at least doing the rats a favor every time you throw your garbage into the tracks. They know better.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.