- if you live in a city, now might be a good time to go turn on your for a few minutes, to scare away any rodents that may have moved in during the coronavirus shutdown.
- with normal food patterns disrupted, rats are looking for places to go that they might not have considered before stay-at-home orders were common.
- it's much easier to keep an eye on things every few days than pay hundreds of dollars to fix gnawed wires.
new york city has been particularly hard hit by covid-19, so perhaps its no surprise that the city's paper of record, the times, is open to writing about a nasty new phenomenon happening to cars that aren't being used as much as normal: rats sheltering in place inside car engine bays.
stories of animals in car engines are nothing new (just see the many youtube videos out there offering easy and fast solutions to keep rodents away), but with fewer people driving and nyt reporters apparently scanning twitter for story ideas, it became obvious that there's been an increase in rodent in-vehicle habitation.
twitter is where npr reporter kelsey snell posted that, after not driving her vw jetta for a week, she was greeted by an unexpected surprise when she got in to run an errand. snell said she was alerted to possibility of there being something wrong when her car displayed an exhaust system error message. as it was a new car, she thought that was strange and so opened the hood to discover some rat excrement and what looked to be a nest. after contacting her dealership for help, snell learned that hers was the fifth call in a week about a rat problem.
and this is where the times stepped in, filling in some details of snell's story. the eventual cost to fix snell's chewed-through wires was around $400, and we learned that rats "get a certain amount of comfort by just chewing," since they are evolutionarily familiar with chewing roots in their in-ground burrows to keep their teeth sharp and short. also, with the massive change in food disposal patterns in big cities because so many restaurants are no longer serving sit-down meals, rodents' food sources are not where the creatures might be expecting them.
we suspect our mechanically inclined readers are likely taking good care of their vehicles while they're sheltering in place, but articles like this—and a washington post story from february, appetizingly named "rats will devour your car," that described how a series of warning lights alerted the owner of a new honda fit to the presence of rats—ought to serve as a good reminder for everyone. after all, according to the chinese calendar, 2020 is once again the year of the rat.