Expert Explains Why People Are Spotting More Rats During Quarantine
A rat expert, or ‘rodentologist’, if we’re being technical, has explained why people are spotting more rats on the streets during quarantine.
First things first, I should point out that this is in no way an excuse to try and fill your time by going rat-spotting. It might sound like a weird pastime, but we’re all at a bit of a loose end at the moment and some are turning to increasingly strange activities to stay entertained, so I wouldn’t put it past people.
Still, as I said, it’s no excuse – you need to stay home when you can.
Those who have had a valid reason to be out have started noticing an increase in the amount of rodents swarming the streets, with the French Quarter in New Orleans becoming overrun with rats towards the end of last month and residents of New York City spotting the usually nocturnal creatures in new areas and at odd times of day.
Renowned urban rodentologist Robert Corrigan said the changes aren’t unexpected, and told BBC News they are the result of humans altering their own habits in order to adhere to government recommendations of self-isolation and social distancing.
When you have a colony of rats on a block that has been depending on tourists littering and lots of trash put out at night – it could be DC, it could be New York – anyplace where rats have been depending the easy handouts, and that disappears, then they don’t know what to do.
As restaurants close their doors, tourism dries up and there are less and less people wandering the streets, rats which usually feasted on abandoned leftovers and trash have had to adapt in order to find food sources.
Claudia Riegel, with the New Orleans pest control board, put the increase in rodents down to one thing, saying: ‘These rats are hungry.’
In the UK, the National Pest Technicians Association warned ‘the closure of schools, pubs, restaurants, hotels, tourist attractions and other public places to enforce social distancing will have unintended consequences’ as pests may thrive in empty buildings.
Corrigan explained that even if an area has previously been rat-free, the ‘formidable mammals’ are likely to find a way in as they ‘can wander quite a distance and end up in a different neighbourhood completely.’
The creatures are good at sniffing out sources of food and chewing through barriers like doors, plastics or fabrics.
They’re global, they’re everywhere, and they didn’t get to be completely global if they weren’t very skilled at being masters of adaptation.
Though more rats appear to be out and about, the rodentologist pointed out now is the perfect time to bring in control techniques as hungry rats are more likely to take bait from traps.
Corrigan also explained that if rats can’t find a reliable food source, they will turn on each other and ‘control their own numbers’.
Not all areas have seen changes among the local rat colonies, which may be down to a difference in food sources. If rats feed on household waste, which is still in strong supply, they won’t have been forced to change their habits.
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