New York scientists develop a novel method to track rats

Based on a new study carried out by a team of scientists from New York City, it reveals rats can be baited to or even repelled from locations by means of pheromones present in the scents of other rats.

Rats are responsible for spreading diseases, starting fires and even disabling motor vehicles. Rodent activity has been found in 23% of all restaurants in Manhattan. Furthermore, figures suggest rats have cost the world’s economy more than $300 billion a year.

Despite these grave consequences, very less is known about the behavior of urban rats, which is different from laboratory rats.

The latest research however augments study in this field.  In a waste recycling centre in Brooklyn, New York, scientists implanted microchips in the city rats. Radio frequency identification sensors were also used for movement tracking purposes. In addition, male or female scents were placed near or on the sensors and these were replaced every two weeks. These devices were placed in safe and sheltered areas, including risky and open environments vulnerable to rats.

Results concluded rats reacted differently to male and female scents. It was further observed, risk was unimportant when the rat responded to male scent. The rats visited male scents in exposed and sheltered areas equally and then also stayed away. The rats however visited female scents more often in comparison to male scents, (0.2 visits/day compared to 5.02 visits/day).

Scientists therefore concluded, attractants were effective in sheltered areas, whereas deterrent scents were effective in exposed areas, where animals were vulnerable to predators.

“Context is everything. If we can pinpoint the scents and contexts that are most useful, then we increase our chances of creating novel control tools, but further research is needed under a broad range of conditions,” commented a source person from the study.

The team has further identified primary reasons for controlling scent-based control tools. A more controlled access to urban areas are necessary to make scents useful against rats.