Rodents in Prospect Park: Has the Rat-Hawk Balance Been Disrupted?


Originally uploaded by lostinbrooklyn.

Rose writes on the Park Slope Message Board: “Has anyone else noticed more rats than usual in Prospect Park? I know there have always been rats there, but this summer it seems like every time I go to the park, I see rats. I run on the dirt path next to the road, and rats keep dashing across the path in front of me — I’ve been running in the park for years, and this never used to happen.”

“I went running today around noon and during two loops of the park, I saw three live rats and two dead rats. Aren’t rats nocturnal?”

“Also, what happened to the hawks? I never see hawks anymore (maybe because I’m always looking down, watching out for rats). Did the hawks leave the park, causing the rat population to explode?”

More Rat (and Hawk) Sightings on the Park Slope Message Board

7 Replies to “Rodents in Prospect Park: Has the Rat-Hawk Balance Been Disrupted?”

  1. The best solution to reducing the rat population would of course be to leave less trash and especially food scraps around the Park. Pack out sandwich baggies and BBQ bits and deposit them in a trash can outside the Park. Then the rats and raccoons will have to work for their meals. Rats are opportunistic and follow people’s lead. Prospect Park now receives more than 8 million visits a year. If people were more careful about their garbage, there would be fewer rats!

    As to Hawks, Here’s some observations from one of the educators at the Prospect Park Audubon Center:

    At least 4 or 5 adult and young Red-tailed Hawks are still active in Prospect Park. Plus the occasional Red-shouldered Hawk (although they prefer frogs to rats) and Cooper’s & Sharp-shinned Hawks (which eat almost exclusively songbirds). The only other major predator on rats would be owls such as the Great-horned Owl which spent a month or so last winter hanging around Lookout Hill.

  2. Eugene, that doesn’t sound realistic at all. Nobody is lugging their trash out of the park now… Are you speaking in an official capacity here? Would you seriously consider starting a “Take Your Trash Out of the Park” initiative?

    And have you taken a look at the trash cans lately? I was there early Sunday morning, and they were piled to the treetops – it looked like a massive game of Trash Jenga.

    I know you’re probably constantly strapped for funds, but for the “Rat Problem”, wouldn’t the simple solution be to ADD MORE TRASH CANS? How much could a few steel drums possibly cost you?

    Finally Eugene, as Communications Director for the park, it would be great if you could comment directly on the rat issue that Rose brings up (in much more detail over in this thread): are we seeing a real increase in the rat population or not?


  3. Putting more cans out isn’t the answer because someone has to collect the garbage. Within the Park, garbage is collected by the Parks Department not the Sanitation Dept. Right now our maintenance and operations office is working with about 2/3 of normal staff (that’s not just a $ issue, but also finding people with the training to operate the mini garbage packer and hiring people who have experience tackling Park maintenance issues).

    As to the numbers of rats, every year as the summer ends and there is less garbage around from picnics the rats become more active in searching for food – esp. as they start to store food for winter. We do place traps around the Park but to be truly effective, they should be placed near where the rats are hiding out. That requires trimming back shrubbery, which we do but again, with limited staff caring for 585 acres of parkland….

    There’s no “take your trash out” initiative. But, I will point out that if people are willing to carry bags and bags of food with them into the Park, why is it so incredible then to even consider that if the nearest garbage can to your picnic is full, pack up your garbage and walk it back out of the Park. This is after all Brooklyn’s largest green recreation space. It’s not a designated garbage dump. A public park needs the public’s help. To that end, anyone who is interested in volunteering should contact our volunteer office at (718) 965-8960 or visit

  4. While we have lost one of the three breeding pairs of Red-tailed Hawks in the area, I don’t believe that would have caused a noticable affect on the rats. Red-tails, on average, require about 5 ounces of food per day. A grey squirrel weighs about 1 pound. So, for example, if one hawk fed on a single rat per day that’s only 30 per month. The highest number of resident hawks I’ve ever counted between Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery is 15.

    Norway rats give birth to an average 8 to 12 pups per litter and average 4 to 7 litters per year. You do the math. We’d need an awful lot of hawks and owls to eliminate the rat population of NYC.

    More likely construction projects near the park have driven them out of their usual location. FYI – the owl on Lookout Hill was actually the much small, Long-eared Owl.

  5. can anyone tell me if there are possums in park slope- it is now 10 to 3 on saturday- no i’m not intoxicated. I was just having a cigarette on my stoop and I saw this thing that looked like a fat cat, tan/ beigeish color with a rat tail- it was discusting. I have never seen anything like it. was that a rat or a possum? are there possums in park slope? I looked at several images- I don’t think they have rat tails. I’m like totally freaked out!

  6. michael, there are definetly possums in the slope! I just moved from ocean parkway and caton and found in my basement a family of possums, 5 to be exact. they are as big as cats but look like beige rats, they are definetly not a pretty sight, and can be vicious. i know first hand, because th esucker hissed at me and i hauled __ out of the basement. thank god I had nothing of importance there, because I definetly was not going back in there. and just a little nted fact, ive lived my whole life in the slope and i have witnessed the craziest array of animals, possums walking down o.p., raccoons, bats flying into friends windows and this was the weirdest, and armadello, thats right an armadello in my lobby.
    Brooklyn is definetly filled with wild life.


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