Driven out of sewers by summer floods and an urban building boom, then nurtured by warmer winters and the leftovers of fast food, ...
Rat-catchers and companies selling poison and traps are reporting a boom in business, with urban housing estates among the worst affected areas. Long-term growth in rodent populations is also blamed on a decline in "sewer-baiting", the practice of laying down poison twice a year to prevent rat numbers building up underground.
Because rats breed on average five times a year, with seven or eight in each litter, growth can be rapid. The recent surge in numbers has been linked to a boom in urban development and flooding in recent years, which drove rats out from underground, through holes and cracks in pipes and drains.
Demand for rat control services rose by more than a quarter last year and hits on this pest control website, in particular, have more than trebled. Killgerm, the country's biggest seller of rat poison, said sales rose by a quarter last year.
It is estimated there are 65 million to 80 million rats in Britain, eating their way through 210 tonnes of food a year. This compares with an estimated 45 million to 50 million a decade ago, a rise of nearly 40 per cent, though such calculations are not an exact science. The biggest increases appear to have been in the south of England, western Scotland and Northern Ireland; only East Anglia and the south Midlands reported a fall.
Granted, it's a bit like crime statistics as it is invariably difficult to tell whether the number of incidents has gone up, or if the reporting is more prevalent, but there's no doubt that the number of calls being received by pest control companies about rodents is significantly up on 12 months ago.
Rats can spread diseases to humans through their urine, including Weil's disease and salmonella, though the Health Protection Agency said cases which could be linked to rats were "rare" and there was no evidence of any increase in recent years.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) says that rather than call in the pest control experts it is more humane to avoid attracting rats in the first place by keeping food and buildings sealed. "Rats are highly intelligent, social animals who excel at learning," said Poorva Joshipura, director of Peta Europe. "They do not want to die trying to gnaw their leg off in traps or slowly suffering from poison."
Article provided by SDA Pest Control