With all that food ready to be cooked on the grill or gobbled down before the Inner Harbor fireworks, today is perhaps not the most mouthwatering moment to mention that Baltimore has been listed as one of Earth’s most rat-infested places.
That’s what Animal Planet says in a new list of the Top 10 Worst Rat Cities in the World.
Baltimore ranked No. 3 – less genus-Rattus-plagued than New York City and Boston – but worse than either London or Deshnoke, India.
Though we can give you a mouthful about the size of rats in Charles Village or the history of their brethren in Highlandtown, we have no precise idea of how the satellite and cable TV channel came to its conclusions except to repeat what they had to say about “Baltimore’s rat problem”:
. . . at one point, rats tunneled so intensely beneath a particular area of pavement that when garbage collectors drove over it, their truck sunk up to its axles. Rats in the vicinity took full advantage of the mishap and swarmed the truck, gorging on the garbage inside.
Baltimore also enjoys the dubious distinction of being a hotspot for rat-related research, beginning during World War II and continuing today, much of it carried out at Johns Hopkins University.
If there’s any shred of truth behind this tunneling-rat-garbage-truck urban legend, we’d like to know about it.
Not to Cross the Jones Falls
From a 2009 story in The Brew, we can offer you the following history of the Baltimore Rattus:
English ships spread rats to North America sometime in the 1750s. By the American Revolution, when the port of Baltimore had a major storage facility for grain, brown rats had set up housekeeping here.
More than 200 years later, researcher Lynne C. Gardner-Santana’s DNA analysis found that the city’s founder rats had evolved into three genetically distinct populations: one within the early 19th century boundaries of the East Side, one within those early boundaries of the West Side, and another population spreading through a ring of communities, from Brooklyn to Govans, that once were suburbs but were annexed to the city in 1918.
The Jones Falls has isolated the East Side and West Side populations from one another for generations, Gardner-Santana said. “We thought that was interesting because they can swim,” she said. “But they won’t cross the Jones Falls.”
The rankings in Animal Planet were as follows:
1. New York City
5. New Orleans
9. Rat Island, The Aleutians
10. Deshnoke, India
And for more on the Baltimore sport of rat fishing: