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MTA Unveils New Way to Curb Rats: Birth Control

By Jess Wisloski | March 2, 2013 4:27pm

BROOKLYN — In the ongoing war against subway vermin, the MTA is ready to try cutting the rat population off before it starts, according to a recent report.

A new kind of bait, that induces permanent infertility in rats, will be rolled out in New York City subway stations over the coming months, the Wall Street Journal first reported Saturday.

The MTA confirmed that it will be testing the bait, the implementation of which is being funded initially through a $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, a spokesperson said.

"We do not have a set time or locations. Those details haven't been ironed out," said Judy Glave, an MTA spokeswoman.

It will be the first urban attempt at using the bait ContraPest, according to the WSJ, which has been successful in rural areas around the world.

Brown rats, also called sewer rats, can produce up to 2,000 offspring a year, and reach sexual maturity as soon as 3 weeks after birth, so researchers have been looking towards ways of halting their proliferation.

But the company that produces the unique birth-control bait faces a new problem with inner-city rats, the report noted: Like their human counterparts, city rodents have a somewhat refined and variable palate.

"Existing baits, the company wrote, are hampered in cities by 'the abundance of more palatable food choices (i.e. trash),'" the story noted.

Later this month, the company producing the bait will run taste tests across subway trash rooms, the report said.