Why So Many Cars Now Have Rats – The New York Times | Gmx Pharm

For eight years, Libby Denault had brought her Prius to the same Brooklyn body shop for tunes and other repairs, which was always done quickly.

But in January 2021, mechanics at Urban Classics Auto Repair in Bedford-Stuyvesant were at a loss: the ‘Check engine’ message kept flashing on the dashboard of Ms Denault’s car, even though the vehicle was driving fine. “They ran a battery of tests and couldn’t figure out what it was,” she said.

Eventually they found the source: a rat. It had chewed through a sensor wire. She ended up getting a $700 bill.

Rats nesting under car hoods are nothing new to New Yorkers, but over the past two years many of the city’s auto body shops have seen a significant increase in the number of drivers who come in with rodent-related problems. Of 28 mechanics interviewed citywide for this article, 20 reported an increase in bugs in cars, and of those, 10 said the number of such occurrences had doubled during the pandemic.

“I see new cars, old cars, everyone comes in now with these rat problems,” said Ozzy Dayan, a mechanic at Manhattan Auto Repair in Hell’s Kitchen. “It brings me a lot of business, but it’s disgusting.”

The recent Covid trend of New Yorkers buying cars may be partly to blame. According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, new passenger car registrations rose by 19 percent between the summers of 2019 and 2021.

And more cars mean more places for rats to nest.

Jenna Carpenter-Moyes, a design strategist in Brooklyn, bought a used car in May 2020 to help navigate the city during the pandemic. Driving into the Hudson Valley that summer, she noticed her engine straining as she drove up a hill.

“The ‘Check Engine’ light came on and I took her to my mechanic, who opened the hood and found chicken bones, some bread and part of a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich,” Ms. Carpenter-Moyes said. She paid $1,200 to fix and clean the car, but the fight to keep the rats from picnicking under the hood is constant now, she said. “I use a lot of peppermint oil.”

Rat sightings have also increased during the pandemic (or at least more New Yorkers have complained about it). Between 2020 and 2021, calls to the 311 hotline increased by well over 8,000, according to NYC Open Data. Michael H. Parsons, a research scientist at Fordham University and an expert on city rats, is a co-author of a 2020 study on increased hotline calls about rodents. “When things shut down, the rats lost access to their usual food sources,” he said.

Like other New Yorkers, Rats had to improvise and adapt.

“Rats can adapt very quickly to human behavioral changes,” said Jason Munshi-South, a biology professor at Fordham who worked with Dr. Parsons has researched. “As the pandemic changed our behavior, so did the rats.” Normally staying close to their food sources, rats began to take more risks, such as outrageous lunchtime nudges to garbage bags and other potential meals and hangouts.

But lately, when human behavior has returned to something remotely normal, the rats have not returned to their old ways; They simply expanded their tactics. As they continue to scavenge through trash and run off with slices of pizza, they may also be more likely to exhibit rare and unusual behaviors, such as attacking and eating other city animals like pigeons and even other rats, said Dr. parsons

Laura Cali, an archivist in Park Slope, Brooklyn, found evidence of rats in her car last February. “I was just disgusted because I didn’t really understand how and why they would do that,” she said. “Then I learned they look for warmth and go under the hood when you’ve just parked. It feels really gross to get back in the car and wonder if there won’t be a family of rats under your hood every time you start your car.”

The proliferation of outdoor food sheds and new soy-based insulation for car wiring — basically catnip to rodents, said Dr. Parsons – are other possible causes of the increasing number of rats eating their meals in vehicles, according to some researchers and mechanics.

Charlie Salino, a mechanic at Parkside Auto Care in Park Slope, said his customers often tell when a rat is rummaging around in the engine based on obvious signs like feces. However, some research is needed to determine the extent of the damage. “The rats can fit into spaces that we can’t reach without disassembling parts of the engine,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a quick fix that I can do in an hour, and sometimes it costs $1,000 to fix the entire damage. You don’t really know until you get there.”

dr Parsons said the increased rat activity in cars and everywhere else is a symptom of broader social problems. “Our habits determine how many rats are in our area,” he said. “All those flavors coming out of the garbage bags, the trash, and the crumbs — that’s enough to get the ball rolling.”

“It’s about social city hygiene,” continued Dr. Parsons gone. “We need to change the way we think about how we take care of our neighborhoods and we will be able to get rid of the rats.”

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