Understanding the Ecology of Chicago’s Rats to Support Public Health and Urban Wildlife

Rats carry many diseases of public health concern and cause billions of dollars in property damage to food stores, walls, pipes, and wires.  Preventing rat infestation is thus a high priority for many cities, including Chicago, where rat complaints have increased in recent years.  To prevent these risks from living with rats, our team is studying the ecology and health of Chicago’s rats to identify the features that promote rat infestations and rat infection.  We have found significant variation across neighborhoods in rat abundance and the prevalence of rat zoonotic pathogens associated with land use, socioeconomics, and sanitation.  We are now expanding the Chicago Rat Project to collect data from residents using public surveys and measuring the effects of rodent control on the health of rats and urban predators.  This information will help managers improve rat management in ecologically-friendly ways to benefit public health and urban wildlife.

Maureen H. Murray, Ph.D.
Wildlife Disease Ecologist, Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology

Seminar date: March 10, 2020

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