Lots of superlatives apply to San Francisco. It’s one of the most progressive cities in America, and also one of the most expensive. Some would say that SF and its neighbor Silicon Valley are the most innovative places in the world, or that we have the best climate in the United States. Yesterday, though, San Francisco picked up another, more dubious superlative: the fifth rattiest city in America.
That’s according to a new report released by pest control company Orkin. The company looked at rodent infestations in commercial buildings and in peoples’ homes throughout America. The infestation data allowed them to rank major American cities according to how much rodent activity they have. San Francisco ranked as the fifth rattiest city in America. Chicago was number 1, and Los Angeles was number 2. My former city of Baltimore, Maryland ranked just under SF at number 6. Tampa was the least ratty city in the report, ranking 50th.
According to Orkin, rats have been adjusting to the “new normal” of pandemic life just like humans. As people moved out of cities during the beginning of Covid-19, the report says, rats followed them into more suburban locales. With restaurants closed in many places, rats also switched their sources of food, showing up more frequently in homes than they did before the pandemic. San Francisco was fast to close shops and restaurants, so it’s likely that many of our fair city’s rats effortlessly transitioned to homes instead of seeking out local businesses.
As life has returned to many downtown areas, the report says, so have rats. Rodent complaints in New York City increased 80% when residents started coming back to Manhattan in March of 2021, the report shares, and San Francisco likely experienced a similar boost in rat activity. Importantly, though, while rat activity is reportedly higher across the board in major American cities, San Francisco’s increases are relatively tame relative to the increases experienced by other cities.
As the Mercury News shared earlier this year, our rats appear to be behaving more normally than those in other areas. That’s likely why San Francisco’s Rattiest Cities ranking didn’t change versus Orkin’s 2020 report, in comparison to cities like Portland, Maine which moved up a concerning 26 positions on Orkin’s list between 2020 and 2021.
In short, San Francisco is rattier than usual as a result of the pandemic, but our increases in rodent activity are pretty similar to the average increases seen across America.
As Orkin’s report shares, rodents aren’t just a nuisance; they can cause a wide range of serious diseases, including the deadly hantavirus. (As if you needed another deadly virus to worry about). If you see rats in San Francisco, you can report your sighting to the city by calling 311. San Francisco’s Department of Public Health recommends hiring a licensed company that uses Integrated Pest Management strategies to rid your home or business of rodents.
San Francisco may have achieved high ranks in this dubious list, but if we work together, we can make the city just a bit less ratty.