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This interactive map tracks all rat sightings in New York City

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The city is beginning to target rat hotspots, and this map helps show where they are

Rats are everywhere in New York City, but they’re more abundant in some areas than others. As we reported earlier this week in our feature on the global war on rats, New York is now aggressively targeting hotspots where rats live in huge numbers.

This map, pointed out by commenter bcswartzfager and designed by Meredith Myers, shows where some of those hotspots are. It draws on 311 data, displaying the last 10,000 rat sightings that have been called in to the social services hotline. As you can see, some areas are bright red, with hundreds more reports than nearby neighborhoods.

The Rat Reservoir program, as New York’s new initiative is called, identifies these hotspots, then tracks rats back to their burrows in parks, road medians, and sewers. Often, neighborhoods with chronic rat problems have what’s called a "reservoir," a place where rats can breed in huge numbers, causing problems in the surrounding area no matter what residents or exterminators do.

When these reservoirs are found, the inspectors will seal up burrows, poison intensively, and work with the neighborhood to design better waste management plans, cutting off the rat’s food supply. Rats breed so incredibly fast that if the food supply and nesting space isn’t removed, the population will bounce back within months. During the pilot program, the city found an 80 to 90 percent drop in rat sightings in areas near targeted reservoirs.

New York is now aggressively targeting rat hotspots

When I recently spoke with New York Deputy Commissioner for Environmental Health Dan Kass, he cautioned that the city can’t rely on rat reports alone when tracking down hotspots. Some neighborhoods just feel more comfortable complaining to the city that others, he said, so that 311 data needs to be coupled with proactive inspection.

The 311 data is updated daily, so Meyers’s map is extremely current, usually with a couple day’s lag. She says that 10,000 sightings goes back about six months, or a little less: New York received 24,511 complaints about rats last year.