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Tue. Jul 16th, 2024

Boston City Council Considers Using Contraceptives to Curb Promiscuous Rats

By meerna Jul11,2024
Boston City Council Considers Using Contraceptives to Curb Promiscuous Rats

Rats are multiplying rapidly in the city. (Photo from Herald archives)

The Boston City Council is considering introducing contraceptives to reduce the city’s rat population as an alternative to killing the rodents with poison, which has inadvertently led to the deaths of local pets and wild animals.

Councilman Enrique Pepén introduced a proposal Wednesday that calls on the city to consider implementing a “community-safe rodent birth control” program that would prevent rats from ovulating while also protecting the animals that eat them.

“Our families deserve safe and effective strategies to keep wildlife out of our homes. It is our responsibility to protect animals, including our pets, who also call Boston home,” Pepén said at today’s City Council meeting.

Currently, the city and private management companies spend millions of dollars to place poison traps on rodents, which he says is both wasteful and strategically ineffective.

“These poisons did not keep our community safe or solve the rodent problem,” Pepén said.

He cited a number of examples of accidental victims of rat poison, including an owl that bled from the eyes after eating a rat that had ingested the poison at Faneuil Hall, a local bald eagle that died from exsanguination, and a four-month-old puppy that died from convulsions.

Red-tailed hawks were also common victims. Rats that have ingested rodent poison tend to move more slowly, making them easier targets for birds of prey.

Although it happens less often, one in 10,000 children are exposed to anticoagulant rat poison every year, causing internal bleeding, anemia, urinary bleeding and even death, according to Pepén.

The contraceptives that Pepén urges the city to consider will not be lethal, a type of sweetened water that the rats will consume and sterilize. Unlike poison, the animals that these rats consume will not be affected by the contraceptives.

Nonlethal contraceptives were used in the cities of Newton, Hartford, Connecticut, and San Francisco, and volunteers in Jamaica Plain worked with City Council Speaker Ruthzee Louijeune, who co-authored the ordinance for the hearing.

The pilot program in Jamaica Plain resulted in an 80 percent reduction in the rat population, the order said.

Louijeune attributes the success seen in the area so far to the amount of litter they’ve managed to keep under control. She also noted the “small enough” geography — more than three blocks, which are covered by the pilot near Hyde Square and Brookside Community Garden — has allowed volunteers to create “great habitat” for the rodents.

The rats were not poisoned, but they were given contraceptives in the area. The contraceptive pills are not harmful if eaten by other wildlife, Louijeune said, but it also creates an efficiency challenge because they are designed to sterilize rats.

“Pellet is not yet commercially produced, so there is not enough evidence to show that it is an effective solution and can be implemented on a larger scale,” Louijeune said.

The recent actions of the City Council differ from what was discussed in previous months and years.

By meerna

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