NYC exterminators' new weapon has eliminated nearly 100% of rats from over 100 burrows — and they already have their next targets mapped out

A rat scurrying across a subway platform with people standing in the background.
A rat on a subway platform in New York City.Gary Hershorn/Getty Images
  • New York City officials have found a new effective way to kill rats.

  • The strategy involves pumping carbon monoxide directly into the rat burrows.

  • Some rat researchers say the city should focus on human behavior, including improving waste disposal.

New York City officials have found a new way to kill rats that has all but eliminated a rat population on one Upper East Side street.

A city council member, Julie Menin, told Gothamist the method had successfully eliminated more than 100 rat burrows on a section of East 86th Street since the effort was launched last year. The strategy involves pumping carbon monoxide directly into the rat burrows that are found in sidewalk tree beds.

"The method demonstrated an impressive eradication rate of nearly 100% in the tree pits where it was applied," Gothamist quoted Menin's office saying in a release.

Menin said the strategy was first used on the East 86th Street corridor because of the high number of complaints about rats in the area, in part because of all the retail shops and trash that is left out.

"It was bad here, man," Ibrahim Asmal, a 53-year-old merchant who sells newspapers and candy on the street, told the New York Daily News earlier this year, adding that rats would often get into his products. "When they get in, they bite things. And then you have to throw things out."

The outlet reported that the city's initial response, setting out black poison-bait boxes, didn't work out, and some of the rats even moved into the boxes. Eventually, the outlet added, Menin allocated $10,000 to hire an exterminator named Matt Deodato, the owner of Urban Pest Management, who's been referred to as "Matt the Rat Killer."

The new method is very quick and effective

Deodato uses the carbon-monoxide method to suffocate the rats with the help of a machine called BurrowRX, which costs about $3,000.

"It's very quick," Deodato told Insider. "It's effective."

He estimated that since starting to use the carbon-monoxide method, he'd killed thousands of rats across the city. Some are expected to wander out of their burrow and die on the street, but Deodato said: "Lord knows how many were still underground, dead. So the numbers are pretty high."

New York City isn't the first to use this carbon monoxide method. Boston has been using the BurrowRX for a couple of years, John Ulrich told Insider. Ulrich is the assistant commissioner for the City of Boston's Inspectional Services Department.

He said, so far, his team has treated 1,875 burrows in Boston. It only takes a few minutes to inject the gas into a burrow. After that, "we collapse the borrow, and then you know it works when you come back and reinspect the area and the boroughs haven't reopened. So we've had a lot of success," Ulrich said.

New Yorkers aren't uninimously behind this new tactic. John Reynoso, who works the front desk at an apartment on East 86th Street, told Insider that the technique has been effective, but that it's a crude way to treat the animals.

A photo of a campaign poster for Julie Menin on the city block where they're planning to use carbon monoxide treatment next.
Menin has announced that they're planning to treat this section of East 75th Street next.Maiya Focht

"I know it's hard. There's like so many rats, I totally understand, so like killing them sounds like the easy answer," he said. "But if only there was a way where we could get them out without killing them."

Next stop, East 75th Street

Gothamist reported that Menin had since set aside $30,000 to fund the carbon-monoxide technique. "This is not the panacea that's going to solve all of New York City's rat problems, but it's a very effective tool for the tree pit issue," she said. The program is set to expand to other areas where there are a lot of complaints, including the area of East 75th Street between Second and Third Avenues.

Alieyah Scott, a customer service person at a veterinary clinic in the 75th Street area, told Insider that she hasn't seen many rats, but that it sounds like a good plan regardless. "Hopefully it works. But I know like rats in New York City are like a big problem."

After vowing to address New York City's rat issue, Mayor Eric Adams appointed a rat czar earlier this year. In addition to the carbon monoxide method, the city has also tried spring traps, poisons, and rat birth control.

People still have a responsibility to make changes to keep rats out

Some rat researchers have said the city should focus more on human behavior, including improving waste-disposal methods.

A photograph of trash piled up in bags on E 75th Street.
The rat problem could be eradicated by improving waste solutions in the city, some people say.Maiya Focht

Deodato agreed that people had to make changes after he visited, including investing in better garbage pails and installing mesh in places where the rats burrowed. "We show them a whole bunch of different systems that they can use to stop the rats from reemerging or re-burrowing," he said.

If you eliminate their food supply and a place for them to make their home, Deodato says, "you eliminate the rat."

Ulrich also said this carbon monoxide method can't be used "inside buildings, or within 10 feet of a structure." So it has its limits.

Menin's office didn't respond to Insider's request for comment.

This story was originally published on October 30, 2023. It has been updated with additional reporting. 

Read the original article on Business Insider