NYC Rat Exterminator Matt Deodato Uses BurrowRx Gas to Kill
There are few happy stories in the world of rat control, but the Daily News found a on East 86th, between Lexington and Second Avenues. Business owners there gave one man credit for decimating a population that had gotten so out of control that rats were running around: Rat Killer Matt Deodato.
Deodato was 18 when he started pest control for a living. He is now 57, works between eight and ten infestations a day and thanks rats and bed bugs for sending his three children to college. His company, Urban Pest Management, takes care of everything from water bugs to pigeons, but has recently specialized in rats. His weapon of choice: a $2,320 gadget which drawn carbon monoxide in the nests. “We put this pipe nozzle in the burrow…Usually within three minutes the rats are dead.”
I talked to Deodato about New York’s trash can problems, Curtis Sliwa’s “insane” wildcat stunt, and why we may never really be rid of the creature that nearly got rid of us for bubonic plague.
Our conversation has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
What is the rat situation in New York right now?
I’ve never seen the rat population explode like this in 39 years. We do private homes in Astoria, Flatbush, Chinatown – I can name every neighborhood. Each of them has seen such an influx. We are almost overwhelmed by it.
It looks bad.
We thought during the pandemic things would have improved, but they seemed to be thriving. They actually became Lord of the City. Their territory expanded as they had to search for food. And there were endless refuges: the outer shelters became nesting areas. And the cars! They go there because it’s hot and the interior insulation or the wiring is made of vegetable oil and they gnaw on the wires.
Where is most of your business coming from right now?
We mainly do residential work, but when it comes to businesses at the moment, we mainly help restaurants. We’re at a site right now on West 18th Street where in front there’s a pit of trees. There must be four or five burrows where these rats pop out of a connecting sewer. Through the glass, the people in the restaurants watch and see the rats running back and forth. It’s quite funny.
What do you think of Eric Adams’ plan to change the garbage collection time? The administration also seems to be at least somewhat interested in containerization.
Rats adapt at any time. You throw out your garbage at midnight, it will come out just at noon. It’s almost like ringing the dinner bell.
As for the container – I do buildings in Manhattan, like the Corinthian on 38th Street, with 960 apartments in that building, or the Pavilion with 680. The amount of garbage buckets you would need for buildings in that size would take half a block. And these are not cheap containers; they can run $200, $300 each. Imagine if you are robbed. That could be tens of thousands a year on top of whatever those buildings are paying for. That elimination shift the city is talking about won’t happen.
And what Curtis Sliwa did the other day: bring cats to the mayor?
Cats are natural predators, that’s a fact. A rat will not live with a cat. But if a cat is well fed, it will use a rat as a toy to run around in, but it won’t use it as a food source. And today’s cats find other food around. So this whole idea was crazy.
So you use gas instead of wild cats.
The BurrowRx is a gassing system that removes carbon monoxide. When a client calls us saying, “There’s a pit in front of our house and nothing seems to work,” we go down there, bring our BurrowRx machine with a 20-foot rubber hose connected to an exhaust pipe. We put this pipe nozzle in the burrow and use a tracer smoke; it comes out of the machine with the carbon monoxide. We look at where the smoke is coming from, and that tells us where there are other exits. We cover this so they only have one release.
Usually within three minutes the rats are dead. But if your house is on fire, you will run out of the house. As soon as you turn on the machine, nothing happens, but once they start choking, the rats come out of the burrows. A mother will leave her young; an alpha rat will leave the rest of the nest. I ran them up to where the pipe is. They are survivors.
What do you do then?
We killed them with these little pitchforks and this garden thing that we use to collapse the burrows. You physically see how many rats there are in those tree pits. So people see the result. You see dead rats in front of you.
It may not be so humane, but it is effective.
What have you learned from work about the psychology of rats?
Above all, I learned never to underestimate a rat. I’ve seen them do things I never thought any living creature could do, and what I’ve learned the most is that they’re the ultimate survivor. They were — it’s hard to say, but — unstoppable. It’s the same rat that wiped out half of Europe with the bubonic plague.
Do you admire them in any way?
I admire them. When you think a rat only lives a year – that’s its entire lifespan – what it does in a year is pretty impressive.
They keep adapting, adapting, adapting. They learn. I’ll give you a perfect example: they teach their little ones not to go into a trash can unless there’s a bag in it, because they can use the bag as a ladder to get out. You will see rats jumping over sticky boards and teaching their young to go around them. I’ve seen rats learn to jump out of a dumpster when a garbage truck backs into an alley. When the truck backed up, it made a beeping sound. And when they heard the beep, they jumped.
God, that’s smart. Do you think we can ever really win this war?
No. I tell people, “Elimination doesn’t exist. If someone tells you, “I guarantee parasite removal,” that’s a lie.
And so we kind of coexist.
I don’t know what a rat is for, but it belongs on planet Earth. I don’t know why God put them here or why nature put them here. But they are here.