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Yet another unexpected new side effect of coronavirus: Rat turf wars

Illustration for article titled Yet another unexpected new side effect of coronavirus: Rat turf wars
Photo: Gary Hershorn (Getty Images)

With every passing day, the coronavirus pandemic creates new, horrible problems for the world to deal with. Most of these are related to the sorts of things we’ve all been expecting—economic collapse, political fallout, and constant reminders of how essential robust social welfare programs and well-funded, free healthcare truly are. But there are also more unusual side effects, like groups of Thai monkeys going to war with each other, goats launching not-all-that-hostile takeovers of Welsh towns, and, now, turf wars between competing factions of New York City rats.


Gothamist’s David Cruz details this conflict, explaining that the city’s rats are scrapping, like Thailand’s monkeys, over food supplies diminished by humans staying indoors. The article includes quotes from rat expert Bobby Corrigan, who says that the problem comes about when rats (just like us!) start to fight over unequal access to resources. While “it’s business as usual” for rats in “some parts of New York City,” those that hang out in areas like Times Square’s Restaurant Row aren’t able to find as much tasty, tasty garbage during the quarantine.

Corrigan says that, yeah, the hungry rats will make do for a while by “killing and eating each other right inside the nest,” but are also now being observed trying to find food in other parts of the city controlled by different rodent colonies. “They will not give up that territory with a big battle,” Corrigan explains, going on to compare the rat combat he’s seen before to “something out of Ben-Hur.”

Before we try to cheer ourselves up about this situation by picturing rats racing chariots and creating religions based on the deaths of rat messiahs, the article reminds us that not only are rats going to suffer because of this, but that “low-income New Yorkers [will bear] the brunt of an increased rat population” as food shortages cause migrations to new neighborhoods.

Read the full story on Gothamist for more information on the Great Rat War.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.