Recent Flooding May Have Exterminated Hundreds of Thousands of Rats in NYC

Experts believe that hundreds of thousands of rats in New York City may have been killed by the massive flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida last week, according to a Wednesday report from the website Gothamist.

The website consulted with multiple rodent specialists regarding stories that surfaced on social media about dead rats and mice found around the city. According to those experts, the deluge may have caused, as Gothamist called it, "one of the largest vermin depopulation events in decades."

"With this particular storm, any rats that were in the sewers were either crushed by the current or were swept out into the rivers," Bobby Corrigan, a longtime pest control expert and former ​​rodentologist for the NYC Department of Health, told Gothamist. "I can't imagine they would've survived."

No city department tracks the rat population in New York, but many estimates put the rat count in the city somewhere in the millions. Many of those rodents live in the city's sewers and subways. The torrential rainfall last week caused significant flooding throughout both of those systems.

Flash floods triggered by torrential rains left subway stations underwater in New York City

— TRT World (@trtworld) September 2, 2021

Soon after the flooding, people on Twitter began sharing stories about drowned rats being found.

Hey Neil, we also found some of these rats near our study site on the Queens side of the bay. I can't imagine the number of these that must have washed into NYC waters during Ida floods.

— Chester Zarnoch (@ChesterZarnoch) September 7, 2021

there are drowned rats on the streets of new york today and i just feel like if the rats can't make it here then none of us can make it anywhere

— irene (@lanadelslayee) September 2, 2021

Some Twitter users also retweeted a video that showed a rat that appeared to be swimming around in floodwaters. However, the video was later shown to having not been filmed recently in New York, it was possibly made in the Philippines, after social media users discovered the clip had been posted earlier in the summer.

Even if rats naturally evolved to swim well to survive, the overwhelming waters would have proven too much for many, according to Corrigan.

"I would guess hundreds of thousands died, easily," he told Gothamist. He added that "an entire generation" of baby rats also likely perished.

Those rats that didn't drown may have taken to safer, drier ground, as many people complained of seeing rats more often after the flooding.

I've never seen so many rats in broad daylight in Central Park—I'm guessing they were flooded out of their homes. But I'm not the only one who has noticed... #birdcpp

— Alex (@alex_runs_nyc) September 2, 2021

Just a a huge rat in Central Park just vibing around everyone they're getting way to comfortable I don't want to be here for the 2032 New York rat wars

— Christy (@ChristyGomezz) September 3, 2021

Gothamist also spoke with several exterminators, who said they'd seen a noticeable increase in complaints since the storm about rat sightings.

"It's a huge surge, we've never seen anything like this before," Timothy Wong, an exterminator at M&M Pest Control, told the outlet.

"I've seen an increase in rats in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens—the storm just forced everything to a higher level," Frank Deuidicibus, an owner of A-Expert Extermination Company Inc., added. He claimed his complaints about rats went up by 20 percent since last week.

When contacted for comment by Newsweek, a spokesperson from the NYC Health Department said, "Citywide, 311 (the city's hotline) complaints for rodent activity have not increased from previous levels over the summer, but we are monitoring our data and taking a closer look at the impacted ZIPs. We do not take a census of the rat population in NYC."

subway rats
Hundreds of thousands of rats may have died during last week's flooding in New York City, according to the website Gothamist. In this photo, Experts believe that hundreds of thousands of rats may have perished in the deluge, amounting to one of the largest vermin depopulation events in decades. In this photo, three rats scavenge for food on a subway platform on September 3, 2017 in New York City. Getty

Update 09/09/21 3:45 p.m. ET: This story has been updated to include comments from a NYC Health Department spokesperson.

Editor's Picks

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts