Why raccoons are so hard to get rid of

  • Raccoons, which can digest just about anything, are attracted to the huge amounts of garbage that build up in urban areas.
  • These highly intelligent, dexterous critters figure out ways of thwarting human efforts to stop them.
  • In 2016, Toronto spent $31 million to fend off a raccoon invasion, but the critters continued to swarm the city.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: In 2016, Toronto spent $31 million to fend off a raccoon invasion. The masked critters were everywhere, pooping on porches, stopping traffic, and infesting attics, and they’re not just taking over Toronto. Reports of raccoon vandalism have plagued cities like Portland, Chicago, and New York City, and as raccoon-ridden cities know, we can’t seem to stop them.

Between the 1930s and 1980s, the US raccoon population increased twentyfold, and it’s still going strong. From 2014 to 2015, raccoon complaints in Brooklyn nearly doubled, so how are these masked bandits making it in big cities?

Well, for starters, they can digest just about anything from fish and acorns in the forest to dog food and pizza on the street, and just like humans, raccoons usually prefer the pizza, which is why they flock from woodland to city in the first place.

In Brooklyn, for example, captured raccoons sometimes get relocated to Prospect Park and nearby forests, but wildlife biologists report they often head right back to the dumpster-packed city streets.

It’s just about impossible to stop them, as Toronto discovered after it spend millions on raccoon-proof waste bins. Unlike traditional bins, the lids had special gravity locks, which open when a garbage truck arm turns the bin upside down. The idea was that if you cut off their major food source, they would skip town, but that didn’t happen. In fact, one year later, a wildlife-control business reported that raccoon-related work had doubled.

Finally, a clever raccoon was caught on camera jailbreaking the new bin. How did she outwit an entire city? Well, study after study has revealed that raccoons are considerably smarter than your average medium-sized critter. Turns out raccoon brains have more neurons packed into their brains than other animals of the same size.

In fact, they have the same neuron density as primates, who are notoriously smart, and their clever brains help explain why raccoons can open complex locks, solve puzzles with ease, and even come up with solutions to problems that scientists didn’t think of. Add to that their ultrasensitive hands, er, paws, which have four times as many sensory receptors as their feet. This helps them to feel subtle textures like special trashcan lids in Toronto and even open locks without looking.

And unfortunately for us, driving them away is a fool’s errand. Studies show that after mass removal, populations tend to rebound to their previous levels in a year. After all, females can start giving birth at just 1 year old and can have as many as eight kits in a single year. This quick breeding is also why experts say mass cullings aren’t a long-term solution.

And while they’re awfully cute, the damage they can cause is not. When raccoons nest in buildings, they can destroy insulation, chew up wires, and tear holes through walls, and it can cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars to repair that kind of damage. One raccoon was even caught destroying over $3,000 worth of artwork, and just removing them can cost $300 to $500 a pop.

Plus, the poop they leave behind can contain roundworms and other parasites, which can enter your lungs when you breathe or get tracked into your home by your pets. Even worse, raccoons can transmit diseases like canine distemper and, in rare cases, rabies.

So it’s understandable that cities are trying to find some way, any way, to manage them.

Man on broadcast: Can’t do a thing about it, just chase them off. They come back.

Narrator: If nothing else, it’s a lesson learned. We may have built the cities, but we don’t necessarily rule them.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in May 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Why cities can’t get rid of rats

  • Cities across the US are getting more infested with rats. As hard as we try to get rid of the pests, they always seem to find a way back.
  • In many ways, rats are better suited for living in cities than people. They can climb brick walls and “tightrope walk” over telephone cables.
  • Their incisors grow 14 inches a year, which lets them gnaw into anything – including everywhere you don’t want them.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Wormtail. Professor Ratigan. The R.O.U.S. Pop culture has given rats a bad rep. And it’s understandable why.

Take northeastern India’s rat flood. Twice a century, rats swarm when bamboo forests drop about 80 tons of seeds. After they devour the seeds, they devastate local agriculture. In the 1960s, the resulting famine was so bad, it lead to a major political uprising.

It’s no wonder that the technical term for a group of rats is a “mischief”! And they’re not just a problem for farmers. These crafty rodents are the ultimate urbanites.

Meet your average city rats: Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus. These rats live pretty much wherever we do. Especially in cities. Take New York City, for example. We don’t know exactly how many rats call the Big Apple home. But a 2014 study gave a ballpark estimate of 2 million rats.

That means for heavily-infested areas you could have several rats per person! And in some ways, rats are better suited for living in cities than people. They can climb brick walls, “tightrope walk” over telephone cables, and their incisors grow 14 inches a year. Which lets them gnaw into anything – including everywhere you don’t want them.

But their most powerful ability? Rats are clever. Too clever. Scientists have shown that rats can learn to use tools. And when offered the choice between a chocolate and freeing a trapped friend. Rats chose to free their friend over chocolate!

Translate those smarts to the real world and rats easily avoid traps. Trying to poison them won’t help much either. Rats are extremely patient when it comes to new foods. They’ll taste just a tiny portion at first, wait to see if that food makes them sick and only then, consume the rest if it’s safe.

This is called “delayed learning” and it’s why rats are notoriously difficult to poison. Plus, they can develop resistance to many poisons over time so even outwitting them might not work in the long run.

Another major issue is that rats reproduce quickly. A single doe usually has 8-12 pups every 8 weeks! And those babies can have pups of their own after only 5 weeks!

So as long as they have access to food, rat populations will rebound from just about any attack. The only attack they can’t handle is improved sanitation.

And cities are using that to their advantage. In 2017, for example, New York City launched a $32 million war plan against its rats. Eliminate 70% of the rats in its 10 most-infested neighborhoods.

The plan is simple. Cut off their food source.

You see, NYC produces around 33 million tons of trash a year – more than any other city on Earth! The trash piles aren’t getting any smaller but the city can at least make it harder for rats to reach by replacing traditional trash compactors with a mailbox style opening.

Will NYC succeed by the end of 2018, as proposed?

Judging by the thousands of years where rats came out on top, it sounds a little too optimistic.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in July 2018.

Read the original article on Business Insider