Warning over ‘aggressive’ urban rats as pandemic starves creatures of food

Rob Waugh
Contributor
Rats have been filmed swarming in empty cities (Getty)

Urban rats who normally dine out every night on waste from restaurants may display “unusual or aggressive” behaviour, experts have warned. 

Rats which normally subsist on waste from rubbish bins have been observed eating their young, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

In some areas, rats have been filmed swarming through normally busy streets in search of food, Science Alert reported. 

The CDC warned: “Community-wide closures have led to a decrease in food available to rodents, especially in dense commercial areas.

"Some jurisdictions have reported an increase in rodent activity as rodents search for new sources of food. 

“Environmental health and rodent control programs may see an increase in service requests related to rodents and reports of unusual or aggressive rodent behavior.”

The agency advised homeowners to take measures to stop rats being attracted to homes, the Guardian reported

The CDC advised that "sealing up access into homes and businesses, removing debris and heavy vegetation, keeping garbage in tightly covered bins, and removing pet and bird food from their yards”.

In the UK, people have reported rats sneaking into homes to find food. They added early hoarding of supermarket items may have also attracted rats to people’s properties.

Natalie Bungay, technical officer for the British Pest Control Association (BPCA), said: "With less footfall across cities and towns there is less associated food waste being left in bins and on the floor.

"As a result, rat populations are likely to move further afield to satisfy their need for a food source and this, in turn, is likely to cause more sightings.

"By nature, rats will also try to avoid humans directly and so, with less of us walking the streets, they may be getting a little bolder and possibly be seen in areas they normally wouldn’t.”

Locals in New York have reported cannibalism and infanticide among rats. 

Rat expert Bobby Corrigan told The Washington Post that a local had sent him a photo of the aftermath of a rat battle in New York. 

Corrigan said that a hungry nest of rats had devoured each other, leaving only a pile of rat limbs on the pavement. 

Corrigan said, ‘“Many of these rats in our cities depend on their nightly food, which is the restaurants and hotels and bars and doughnut shops and everything that we consume on the go.”

Coronavirus: what happened today

Click here to sign up to the latest news, advice and information with our daily Catch-up newsletter

Read more about COVID-19

How to get a coronavirus test if you have symptoms
What you can and can’t do under lockdown rules
In pictures: How UK school classrooms could look in new normal
How public transport could look after lockdown
How our public spaces will change in the future

Help and advice

Read the full list of official FAQs here
10 tips from the NHS to help deal with anxiety
What to do if you think you have symptoms
How to get help if you've been furloughed