May 19, 2020 7 min read
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has emptied city streets all over the world. Packed urban-centers jammed with cars and foot traffic are now empty, quiet, and devoid of humans. One population this is impacting is the urban rat. While food sources from scraps and trash deposits continue to deplete, rats have turned desperate and emboldened as the odds of survival stack up against them. Hungry, cannibalistic, and panicked, rats continue to search for their next meal. While the apocalypse may not be right around the corner, according to many experts, a Ratpocalypse could be!
It's the perfect storm for the year of the rat. The temporary closure/scaleback of countless restaurants and businesses have depleted rat food sources. Many rodents rely on scraps, trash and leftovers in urban areas as a means of survival.
According to experts, there is now a significantly larger prevalence of rodents in major U.S. cities than there was at the beginning of the novel Coronavirus pandemic. This has been reflected in numerous outlets and cities reporting a spike in rat activity.
Ratpocalypse Reports Increasing From Major Publications Around The World
Publications across the globe, have continued to report on the increase in rat activity:
12/3/21:‘You Dirty Rat’: Experts Posit That Omicron Hatched in Rodents - Infection Control
06/18/20: Rats at food markets and restaurants found to carry several strains of coronavirus - Independent
06/5/20: 5 reasons you might be seeing more wildlife during the COVID-19 pandemic - ScienceNews
05/28/20: Rodent sightings increase in residential areas during the pandemic - ABC News
05/25/20: Rats growing more aggressive, even eating each other during pandemic - KTVU News
05/25/20: CDC warns of hungry rats roving empty streets, advising home and business owners to cover trash bins - The National Post
05/23/20: Rats are getting aggressive hunting for food amid restaurant closures, CDC warns - The Washington Post
05/19/20: Rats resorting to cannibalism, searching homes for food amid drop in restaurant diners - 22News/WWLP
05/18/20: Rats Adapt To A World In Pandemic Mode - WBUR
05/12/20: Hungry City Rats Are Looking for a New Lunch Spot Near You - Wired
05/04/20:One More Thing to Think About during COVID-19: Rats in Your Engine Compartment - Car & Driver
04/30/20: ‘They’re climbing’: Exterminators say calls for rats in Baltimore homes have doubled during coronavirus pandemic - The Baltimore Sun
04/30/20: NYC to Step Up Rat Fight as Rodents Take Advantage of Social Distancing - NBC New York
04/24/20: The rats are coming. Here’s how we can keep them away. - The Washington Post
04/21/20: As Chicagoans eat at home because of COVID-19, rats used to dining out on restaurant scraps follow the food supply - The Chicago Tribune
04/13/20: Rats! COVID-19 is bringing another problem to Canadian streets - CTV
04/07/20: Coronavirus: Why more rats are being spotted during quarantine. - BBC
04/03/20:Rats come out of hiding as lockdowns eliminate urban trash - National Geographic
Hungry Rats Search For Food
One example of a growing Ratpocalypse comes from mid/late March 2020, from the famed New Orleans' French Quarter. The district boasted huge new swarms of rodent visitors who were perusing its historic streets. The YouTube videos and news reports quickly went viral.
Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic forced restaurants and bars to close down in the historic center of Louisiana, the rats came out to play. Rats were spotted in packs like gangs, per some rodentologists.
For commensal rodents like the rat who depend on human litter and trash (whether it is in New York, Washington D.C., or Seattle), it was time to come up with another plan to feed themselves.
Because the pandemic induced a dearth in trash, rats are now even willing to risk coming out by day to find viable food sources.
Some are turning increasingly to residential areas to feed on household trash, which is more plentiful than ever with most cooking at home. The combination of food scarcity and desperation has caused some to speculate on a rat population boom or at least a visibility boom. In short, the Ratpocalypse could be coming to your doorstep in search of a food source.
The British-based National Pest Technicians Association warned earlier in April that closing down pubs, hotels, restaurants, schools, tourist hangouts, and similar public places in order to maintain social distancing rules will have unintended consequences for rat populations. Larger populations could quickly spring up in now-empty buildings and grow bolder because there are no people around (granted they find a viable food source).
Across major cities of the United States, there has been an increase in sightings of rodents in the last month. Seattle, Chicago, New York, and New Orleans have especially seen rising complaints regarding rat populations while under lockdown. The Baltimore Sun has reported some Baltimore exterminators have seen calls regarding rat infestations double.
Canada has also seen its share of increased rat activity. The CBC reports some exterminators in Toronto have seen a 20% increase in rat infestations. An article from CTV says increased calls are also coming in from Halifax, Winnipeg, Montreal, Regina, and Vancouver. The trend is disturbingly similar in other parts of the world too.
Rat Wars On City Streets; Cannibalism Among Rodents Becomes More Common
Another by-product of food scarcity has cause stressed rat colonies to increasingly turn to cannibalism to feed themselves. Rodents will first kill one of their own. Next, they then clean the meat off of the unfortunate victims down to the bone in no time. This grisly behavior in New York is becoming all too common. Some experts warn this continued cannibalism could lead to a breed of more agressive, smarter rats.
Expert rodentologist Bobby Corrigan shared the graphic image below in a Tweet on 4/16/20:
The wars, battles & grisly remains of hunger-stressed city rats anywhere during Covid19. Here 6 + victims. Rats are also warriors. Bodies dragged off. Rodent killings (called Muricide) far less when food (garbage, other) remain abundant & stable. Pic:S.Durga @Standardpest ?????????? pic.twitter.com/5NK44b7bDo— Bobby Corrigan (@rodentologist) April 16, 2020
Rats Are Grand Masters of Adaptation
Rats are formidable animals that have become greatly successful by locating reliable sources of food using their sensitive noses. The COVID-19 pandemic has proved no different, they are easily able to reduce such barriers as plastics, doors, and fabrics in minutes. The pests are everywhere in the world because they are so adept at adapting to different conditions and circumstances.
The lockdown presents the perfect opportunity for rats to claim back city streets as municipalities struggle to engage with pest control professionals or develop control rodent control plans to deal with the boom of unwanted infestations. New Orleans has been doing precisely that while the French Quarter is closed down. They hope to control the city's thriving and growing rat population this way.
Rats Are Most Unwelcome House Guests
Hungry, angry, wandering rats can threaten the well-being of homes and their human and pet occupants. Besides potentially causing considerable damage as they enter and move about a house, they are also quite capable of spreading dangerous diseases to the home occupants. Unchecked, the rodents could end up in a child's bedroom or living in a nursing home or even a hospital ward. The bad news is that rats are historically connected with around 55 individual pathogens. Fortunately, so far no vermin have been positively linked as direct carriers of the coronavirus, although research still continues.
A specific danger in a home or business is that these rodents are able to easily gnaw through electrical wiring and wood, which can lead to house fires. Besides these more unlikely but still possible dangers, you do not want to let the rodents become overly familiar with your kitchens or to share your dinner meals with them now that times are hard for the pests. Car & Driver also warns of costly damage rats can do to your car by chewing engine wires.
Keeping Rodents Out of Your House During the Coronavirus Pandemic and Lockdown
An effective means of keeping the rodents from your own house is to deliberately seal up all areas that allow for the pesky creatures to enter the structure. This includes holes and cracks that exist near the pipes, utilities, or even foundation. From the inside of your home, you should eliminate all hiding places for them that you possibly can. Also, make an effort to clean up and eliminate any food source that rats could return to such as trash, pet food, unpackaged food.
We also recommend the use of effective and automatic traps that can allow you constant control without having to reset them daily. Our brand new Home Trapping Kit is the perfect addition to any home or business looking to protect against an ensuing invasion. The kit comes with a portable trap stand to move your A24 automatic trap around easily and our Quick Start Guide walks you through set up and the best places to set up your trap.
Weathering The Ratpocalypse
Traditionally, rat problems are human problems. Wherever we go, this opportunistic pest follows. That's because of the abundance of food that all species of rats have come to depend on from us. With the food scarcity reaching new levels across the globe for all types of rats, expect to hear and see more from these adaptable creatures.
Every year, rats and mice enter 20 million U.S. homes uninvited. They reproduce rapidly, and can cost thousands of dollars in damages and extermination costs. They can ruin equipment, spoil food and start fires by chewing on wires.
We’ve trapped millions (seriously, millions) of rats and mice and the knowledge of what it takes to achieve success is highlighted in this guide.
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