War on Rats Fails to Foil Vermin's High Quality of Life

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 11, 2002 | Go to article overview

War on Rats Fails to Foil Vermin's High Quality of Life


Byline: Tom Knott, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The city, as usual, is making no real progress in its never-ending war with the ever-resilient Norway rat.

It seems every year is the Year of the Rat in Washington.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams is the latest city leader to have declared a war on the vermin, and if history is a guide, his declaration won't be the last.

You don't have to spend very long in certain parts of the city before you run across one of the icky creatures foraging in the vicinity of what amounts to a veritable gourmet feast.

They like what we like: soda pop, hamburgers, fries, pizza, fried chicken and grease. And they aren't real finicky if the stuff happens to be on a sidewalk or in a gutter or has a colony of ants on it. They will eat anything, if necessary - even dog droppings and their own young.

Fortunately, in Washington, they don't have to resort to such extreme measures to survive. All they have to do is hang out and wait on Washington to feed them. Unlike dogs, they don't even have to beg or perform a stupid trick to be rewarded.

Winter controls the rat population more efficiently than any program, if the winter months are genuinely harsh. Washington has not really had a rough winter in years, and so, the rat population remains as strong as ever, if not stronger. But who really knows their numbers? It is not as though rats are required to fill out a census form every 10 years.

Otherwise, the rats do not appear to be scurrying for cover after the mayor declared war on them 19 months ago. If anything, they are feeling pretty good, confident and committed to their cause. They prefer to make love, not war, and they are incredibly prolific in this regard. The females can spit out a litter of 10 every three weeks.

Of course, we do the mayor no favors. We are part of the problem. We eat a lot of food. We also throw away a lot of food. We're messy. We let others worry about the trash buildup in the alleys. We put out plastic trash bags on the sidewalks, as if this is intended to discourage our four-legged foes with the razor-sharp teeth from seeking the goodies inside the bags. …

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