Scribbles Welcomes a New Litter

Another set of babies for Animal Science

Scribbles, the resident rat in the Animal Science class at Southern Westchester BOCES’ Career Services campus in Valhalla, welcomed a set of 14 babies, her second litter in just a few short months.

At the end of August, Scribbles and her sister Hershey each welcomed a litter. Scribbles birthed 17 babies, for a total of 31 this year, while her sister Hershey birthed 14. These baby rats, which live on average two years, will be cared for by students in the Animal Science program for the next two years. 

Due to high enrollment in the Animal Science class, more rats were needed so each student would have one of their own. “Scribbles was such a good mother, I asked her to have another litter soon after she weaned her previous litter,” said Michael D’Abruzzo, the Animal Science Teacher.

Alex Bonilla, a first-year student of the program, is one of three students who will be receiving a rat from the most recent litter. Alex chose the program because of his love for animals and was excited to take care of them. Having a rat of his own was an added bonus.

“I was there when the babies first came out, it was an interesting experience,” Mr. Bonilla said excitedly about the birth of the rats. “I wasn’t expecting to have a rat of my own. The best part was holding them.”

Tom, the “stud” or father of Scribbles’ babies, was carefully chosen because of his good temperament and ease of training. He was also picked because of the high probability that he would produce babies that will vary in color and pattern. This not only gave the students a lesson in DNA, but will help them distinguish the rats from one another. 

“He chose the male that has the most colors and rats that would survive the longest. A true DNA lesson of who is the strongest,” Alex said.

Scribbles and Tom were paired for two to three weeks to ensure conception. Mr. D’Abruzzo said that “about every 4 days the female rat is fertile for about 11 hours.”

Since less than a handful of rats were needed to supply the class, Mr. D’Abruzzo, reached out to Rockland BOCES to see if they would be willing to adopt the remaining litter. As luck would have it, they needed exactly 11 rats for their students. Rockland BOCES is currently housing Scribbles and her babies for the next 4 weeks. Once the babies are weaned, Scribbles and three of her babies will return home to Southern Westchester BOCES. 

“I think the best part of this experience for the students is the rare chance to dive deeply into training an animal almost every day for two years,” said Mr. D’Abruzzo. “They learn a lot about paying attention to everything from the mood, health, and two-way communication that is essential to be successful training animals.”