These supersized rodents have caused some alarm when spotted in Birmingham, Bradford and Leicester through to County Durham, Luton, London, Gravesend and down through Cornwall.
But are we really facing a new breed of super rat, or are these pests just a reflection on the environment in which they survive?
David Cross, Rentokil’s Head of Technical Academy comments; “A large rat will weigh about 500g and be up to 30cm in length, not including the tail. Rats, like most things reflect the environment that they live in. They require food, water and secure shelter to proliferate. How much of these things are available will determine how many rats can live in an area. If the food is right then that will determine how healthy, and to a certain extent how large a rodent will become “although genetics will also play a significant part.”
There are already several species of ‘large’ rodents in the world. The Coypu, found in Europe, North America, Asia and Africa can grow up to 2 ft long. Another example is the Bosavi woolly rat, which was discovered deep in the jungle of Papua New Guinea in 2009, during filming of a BBC wildlife documentary. This particular species can reach up to 3ft in length.
With food waste, particularly leftover take-away food, being so easily available in urban areas – on average we waste 7 million tonnes of food and drink a year in the UK* and with recent research by the Food and Environment Research Agency estimating that there are around 3.1 million rats in the UK’s urban areas, there seems to be enough food to keep these pests roaming our streets. So it would seem a well feed and watered rat with secure shelter does have the potential to expand literally!
*Love Food Hate Waste website