PloS one

A mixed methods approach to exploring the relationship between Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) abundance and features of the urban environment in an inner-city neighborhood of Vancouver, Canada.

PMID 24830847


Urban rats (Rattus spp.) are among the most ubiquitous pest species in the world. Previous research has shown that rat abundance is largely determined by features of the environment; however, the specific urban environmental factors that influence rat population density within cities have yet to be clearly identified. Additionally, there are no well described tools or methodologies for conducting an in-depth evaluation of the relationship between urban rat abundance and the environment. In this study, we developed a systematic environmental observation tool using methods borrowed from the field of systematic social observation. This tool, which employed a combination of quantitative and qualitative methodologies, was then used to identify environmental factors associated with the relative abundance of Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) in an inner-city neighborhood of Vancouver, Canada. Using a multivariate zero-inflated negative binomial model, we found that a variety of factors, including specific land use, building condition, and amount of refuse, were related to rat presence and abundance. Qualitative data largely supported and further clarified observed statistical relationships, but also identified conflicting and unique situations not easily captured through quantitative methods. Overall, the tool helped us to better understand the relationship between features of the urban environment and relative rat abundance within our study area and may useful for studying environmental determinants of zoonotic disease prevalence/distribution among urban rat populations in the future.