Could the harsh winter reduce Chicago's rat population? - Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

Could the harsh winter reduce Chicago's rat population?

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Street rat. (Photo courtesy of Edal Anton Lefterov via Wikicommons) Street rat. (Photo courtesy of Edal Anton Lefterov via Wikicommons)
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The recent cold snap's been nothing but bad news for commuters, many businesses and schools.

Yet, could there be a silver lining?

FOX 32's Larry Yellen took a look at whether the deep freeze might solve a problem that's been plaguing Chicagoans for years.

In the summertime, in some Chicago neighborhoods, rats seem to be everywhere. Streets and Sanitation crews bait their hideouts, residents trap them with glue traps, but they always seem to return.

However, can the rats survive a winter like this one?

So FOX 32's Larry Yellen went to the experts to find out whether this winters frigid temperatures will reduce the population of those little guys.

"Norway rats are a very adaptable species, and one of the things they do to survive our winters is they dig underground," Urban Ecologist Steve Sullivan from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

Urban ecologist Steve Sullivan said Chicago's rats spend their winters beneath our streets and sidewalks, which provide warmth and protection from predators, like cats. Some roam the sewers, ending up in people's toilets.

However, the colder the winter, the more food they'll need, and when they leave their burrows to go looking for it, they're vulnerable

"If the snow gets really deep, and it's hard for young rats to jump across the snow and get to the food, then cold temperature might actually cause some mortality," Sullivan said.

Sullivan said that rapid temperature changes can kill rats. If they're damp due to rain or melting snow, a quick freeze might do them in. However, he doesn't expect a major kill-off this year, and neither does animal control expert Brat Reiter.

"They'll be able to hold up. The population will definitely go down, the older ones, the weaker ones, you know because they can't replenish their energy, it's going to hurt em," Reiter said.

Reiter said the cold will have a greater impact on skunks. Their numbers have been booming, but many could starve, or freeze to death this winter. He won't know for sure, until later this year.

"Nobody's going to know it til the springtime. til they smart smelling them," Reiter said.

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