When not busy posing for adorable, Anne Geddes-esque photographs, the brainy (and sometimes heroic) but widely hated-on Rattus norvegicus is once again making headlines in rodent-plagued New York City.

Officially launched in 2008 as a "a one-stop resource website for New Yorkers’ rat prevention needs" but for some reason the talk of the town over the past few days, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Rat Information Portal (RIP) is a handy-dandy/mildly horrifying online destination with an interactive mapping feature and enough explicit rat talk to leave most musophobes sweaty and dry heaving. The New York Observer has justly heralded the website as “everything you never wanted.”

Despite some usability hiccups and reports of seriously overwhelmed servers (also: the map itself is pretty old), the education- and awareness-minded RIP website allows residents living across the five boroughs to type in their home addresses and learn how severe — or nonexistent — rat infestations are in their neighborhoods. Or individual blocks. Or in their own buildings. As with most things in life, a swath of red across the map indicates that things are, well, not looking so great.

Before New Yorkers —and David Letterman — get themselves all worked up at the RIP website, it should be pointed out that only properties/blocks that have undergone official city health inspections — and been duly noted for “problem conditions” and active rat signs” such as droppings, burrows, tracks, cat-sized vermin, etc. — appear on the map. RIP is very much not an individual rat-sighting free-for-all (although there is a map for that, too) but a resource for those living in established, rat-heavy areas to learn more about the steps being taken to remedy the situation complete with dated inspection data and information about baiting, clean-up, etc. And although the infestation/inspection data presented on the heat map only goes back to 2009, New Yorkers can go ahead and assume that, at one point over the decades, their building has seen some rat action.

In addition to the interactive mapping tool, the RIP website is filled with helpful information on how to rally the neighbors and initiate a community-based rat control effort along with info on how to detect and deal with signs of a rat infestation. However, the RIP website does not go into any detail on how to appropriately prepare your terrier for a round of late night vermin huntin’ in the back alleyways of the Lower East Side.

It’s widely believed that for every resident of New York City, there are two rats. Currently, there are a little over 8 million (human) New Yorkers. You do the math. From personal

experience, I’m convinced about half of them reside on/around 4th Ave. in Park Slope, Brooklyn. But seriously, in some buildings you’ll want to have the keys to the front door out and ready to go before you even approach your stoop. Any dawdling/fumbling for keys will just increase the chance of multiple, sizable rats jumping out of the building's garbage cans and scurrying across your feet.

In other, more reassuring rat news, it’s believed that an abandoned Russian cruise liner filled with hundreds of diseased, cannibalistic rats drifting toward the British Isles has, in fact, sunk

Take it away, David Lynch ... 

More rats in the Big Apple on MNN:

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