Rat 'birth control' discovered in Tucson - Tucson News Now

Rat 'birth control' discovered in Tucson

(Source: Justine Schluntz) (Source: Justine Schluntz)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

An Arizona company is manufacturing and selling “rat birth control” to prevent rodents from getting pregnant.

It’s a new concept to rodent control and an alternative to using poison.

Traditional rat poison can be dangerous, especially if ingested by dogs, cats or children.

University of Arizona professor emeritus Patricia Hoyer, Ph.D., at the College of Medicine was instrumental in helping in the early research of the product called ContraPest.

“The main benefit of this is it’s environmentally safe and it doesn’t kill the animal, and so it’s a very safe way to control the wild rodent population and will be very effective in places,” she said. “This isn’t going to eradicate all of the wild rat population, but it’s going keep them away from the places you don’t want them to be.”

Dr. Hoyer worked with Dr. Loretta Mayer, CEO of SenesTech, a biotechnology company to help develop this technology.

SenesTech leaders told Tucson News Now its biggest clients include zoos, sanctuaries and homeowners associations. They said the product can be applied to a variety of rodents from the rats in the New York subway to pack rats in Tucson.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved of the product in August 2016.

“The chemical itself is not toxic and if it somehow got released into the water supply, it would not be in high enough concentration to cause harm to anybody (including pets or people),” Hoyer said.

Dr. Hoyer helped discover one of the product’s active ingredients.

Her research started in 1989 and nearly 30 years later, she’s excited to see the chemical she studied come to life and help people’s quality of life.

“It’s very thrilling for me,” she said. “I feel like my research is really going to leave a legacy.”

The rat “birth control” is on the market right now. SenesTech started selling it at the end of 2016.

The product comes in the form of liquid bait inside a mini-water feeder. Customers who want to reduce the rat population around their home or in public areas can place it inside a live-trap cage.

When the rats go inside the cage, they drink the bait and it gradually makes female rats infertile.

“This doesn’t harm the animal at all,” Hoyer said. “Again, it’s much preferable to cause infertility in the animal itself. It has a normal lifespan.”

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