We don’t need a better rat trap: Reconceptualising municipal rat management
Michael Joseph Lee, PhD
Urban rats are an important issue globally. Despite ongoing efforts to manage rats, they continue to flourish in cities, indicating that municipalities have not been able to find or widely implement solutions that sustainably eliminate rats. There is no consensus why management efforts may have failed and there is limited research describing or comparing municipal rat management approaches.
This webinar will present a project designed to understand the state of municipal rat management with a view towards providing recommendations for cities seeking to develop or improve their own rat management strategies. To achieve this, our research team traveled to seven cities in the USA with municipal rat management programs, interviewed program stakeholders, attended site visits, gathered rat-related municipal regulations, and synthesized the municipal rat management literature. Overall, we found an entrenched “war-on-rats” paradigm driving municipal rat management and dictating strategies that have changed little over the past century. Despite this, we find that ‘urban rat problems’ are unsolvable wicked problems comprised of complex systems in which peoples’ perception of the problem depends upon their connection to rats in these systems. The “war-on-rats” paradigm does not account for problems that people care about within these systems such that the “war” is likely to perpetually exist in a state of limited stakeholder interest and resource investment. In this presentation we will explore how reconceptualising the problem as one that is unsolvable and as one small part of a complex system can change the way that cities approach management. Finally, we conclude by showing how only by NOT trying to solve ‘the problem’ can cities actually start to make progress on managing urban rat problems.
Michael Joseph Lee, PhD
School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia
Environmental Health Services, BC Centre for Disease Control
Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative
Michael is currently an environmental epidemiologist at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control. He completed his Master’s of Science testing the impacts of pest control methods on the prevalence of zoonotic pathogens in urban rat populations and recently completed his PhD in population and public health with a focus on municipal rat management.