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New York’s Rat Population Smaller Than Believed

Is New York City really home to 8 million rats – or one for every human resident, as it was believed? For a city where rats cause an estimated quarter of all cable-line cuts and unsolved fires, this question is on everyone’s mind, reports MSN News.

Jonathan Auerbach, a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University, is challenging the “one rat per person” claim, estimating the rat population to be closer to 2 million, which he believes could even be a bit inflated. By using a thoroughly modern method – delving into open data.

The “one rat per person” claim stems from a study of rats conducted in England by W.R. Boelter where he surveyed the English countryside (but not villages, towns, or cities) and came up with an educated guess of 1 rat per acre of cultivated land. Since England had 40 million acres of cultivated land and a population of 40 million at the time, Boelter claimed that the country was host to one rat per person.