Could Oreo Cookies Solve New York’s Rats Problem?

Casa La Femme, an upscale Egyptian restaurant in the West Village, has an elaborate outdoor dining shed with a lattice canopy, golden embroidered curtains, seating with fringed pillows and now, nearby, a trap. high-tech rat rats.

Anastasios Hairatidis, one of the owners of Casa, had learned of the craft’s existence – a mod-like device about two feet tall, housed in an ordinary green metal box – from its business partner. He then watched a video on the website of the company that rents them, Rat Trap Distribution, and ordered one immediately, installing it last week.

“Usually we procrastinate,” he said. But with increasing rodent sightings around the city, he said, and discussions over dining sheds compounding the situation, he decided to act quickly. “It’s really for the community,” said Mr. Hairatidis, who is also a nearby owner.

The Italian-made battery-powered device, which wouldn’t look out of place in MoMA’s design store, is a new development in the control of New York’s four-legged enemies. They also caught the attention of mayor-elect Eric Adams. In a radio interview this fall, he called the traps “unbelievable” and vowed to explore their deployment in the five boroughs once he officially runs City Hall.

Besides its innovative design and harmful chemicals, the rat trap also has a secret weapon: Oreo cookies. “Peanut Butter Oreos are the best,” said Jim Webster, operations manager of Rat Trap Distribution, when setting up the contraption outside of Casa La Femme.

The smell of the cookies, crumbled and placed in the upper compartment of the two-part trap, as well as the sunflower seeds, acts as a decoy. For about a week, rodents will be free to crawl through the holes in the device and nibble as much as they want.

Once the rats have become regulars and “get comfortable,” Mr. Webster said, the device will be turned on and a platform will drop them into the lower part of the craft, which serves as a basin. recovery much like an immersion tank at a carnival booth.

Mr. Webster emptied four jugs of a mysterious blue “proprietary” formula into the bottom of the machine. He said the formula was mostly alcohol and had fumes that “knocked the rat out”. He supplemented the solution with sunflower oil to “remove odors” of decomposition.

However, not everyone is a fan of these methods. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, prefers rodent control which focuses on cleaning up trash and sealing entry points, “not finding new ways to torment and kill the small animals that try just to live their life like any other New Yorker, ”the organization said in a statement.

Rat Trap Distribution was founded in 2019 by Pat Marino, a resident of Yonkers, Westchester County. He had no experience in pest control, but he had heard of the Italian product and saw a business opportunity. He became the manufacturer’s sole U.S. distributor, relying on rat statistics – two of them can produce 15,000 offspring in a year, according to National Geographic – and opened an office in Maspeth, Queens.

“I became a ratologist,” he said.

Yonkers now has a contract with Mr. Marino’s company, which rents the devices for $ 250 per month. Inquiries in New York, mostly from property management companies, resumed this fall, he said. So far, 150 to 175 of his traps have been set in the city, from Williamsburg to West Harlem.

Trap maintenance, covered in rental fees, includes double packaging and carcass disposal.

For new customers, the hardest part is the waiting period before the device is turned on, Mr. Marino said. “They want to see instant results.”

Uptown, in a development on West 90th Street, several traps were set in August and hundreds of rats have been caught since then, the property manager said.

However, she couldn’t tell that she had noticed a difference in the rat population around the complex, as she still sees the creatures everywhere.

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