Life of Rats: Nasty, Brutish and Short

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Contrary to popular belief, transit officials say a typical rat's life is short, just five or six months, and about to get shorter.

BARTHELL: Most rats in the city succumb to stress, deadly battles with other rats, erratic food supplies. They succumb to extermination campaigns, cars.

That's Eric Barthell of New York City Transit. He briefed MTA board members today on a pilot program that's been placing rat poison inside protective plastic housing, like a Roach Motel. He said they'll be more effective than the bags of poison the transit system used to distribute on its tracks and elsewhere. The bags get dirty and quickly become less appetizing to rats.

The New York City Health Department estimates that comparatively few of the city's rats live in subway tunnels. Most live above ground where food is even more plentiful.