The COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm, spreading a worldwide health disaster – the likes of which hasn’t occurred in over 100 years. To curtail the spread of this virus, several countries put in place some measures of lockdown.
For the first time in our generation, restaurants were on lockdown, stadiums were empty, schools and offices went remote. These drastic changes no doubt changed the dynamics of both urban and rural societies.
But how exactly did these changes affect the rat infestation rate? Did the rat population increase during the pandemic? Did it reduce? What exactly happened? In this post, we explore answers to these pressing questions.
Humans and Rats: A Forced Relationship
No one likes rats. Most people find them creepy, sneaky, dirty, and whatever ungodly term you can come up with. Yet, they are one of the most successful pests that have been around humans for over 15,000 years.
That’s right! These sly rodents learned a long time ago that staying close to humans provided vast benefits that outweigh whatever risk it posed. From getting easy food handouts to the coziness and safety provided by man-made structures like attics, chimneys, walls, and decks, rats have forced their relationship with us.
Even in urban settlements and amid dense cities, rats have found a way to thrive. Controlling the underworld, they come out in droves from sewer systems, plumbing systems, holes, and other hiding spots, especially at night to ravage whatever leftovers are thrown out by city dwellers.
That’s how things have been… up until the pandemic came in.
The Coronavirus Pandemic: A Change In City Dynamics
As mentioned in the introduction, for most of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic came as a surprise. And because we’ve never dealt with anything like that, lockdown measures were put in place to curtail the spread, pending the time we better understood the virus, and a vaccine was created.
But these lockdown measures hurt the urban ecosystem. Most notably, the food supply for rats saw a sharp decline.
Here’s what I mean. With restaurants closed, foods that would have landed in the garbage were nonexistent. And as most people had to work from home, human activity was greatly reduced in commercial centers.
Where there are humans, there are always leftovers around. So with decreased human activity, the number of leftovers also reduced. Hence, rats had to adapt to this change in dynamics unless they risked dying of starvation.
The Dawn of Bolder, More Aggressive Rats
Brown, black, and roof rats are the most common rat species in the world. They need about 60 calories (which is about 12 to 20 g of food) daily. Generally speaking, rats have a pretty small feeding range of about 100 feet (30 meters). This means they usually do not go beyond 100 feet in search of food.
If given the chance, they’d rather stay within 30 feet (10 meters) as a smaller area means lesser exposure to external threats.
But as Robert Corrigan, a renowned urban rodentologist remarked,
“When you’ve got a colony of rats on a block that has been counting on tourists littering, and much of trash put out in the dark – it might be D.C., it could be New York – a place where rats have been depending on the easy handouts, and that disappears, then they don’t know what to do… However, they’re (rats) global, they’re everywhere, and they didn’t get to be completely global if they weren’t very skilled at being masters of adaptation”.
Hence, with the decline of free food, urban rats now need to venture further for food. Hence, there’s been an increase in the number of rat infestations in areas with reduced human activities.
Now, here’s where things get interesting.
Based on the theory of natural selection, during these tough times, rats that are bolder to explore are most likely to survive and pass on their genes. This means that bolder rats are more likely to survive this pandemic.
But that’s not all. With vanished food sources, rats will move into other colonies and fight for crumbs. What’s more, they are capable of becoming cannibals. Stronger, more dangerous rats will prey on weaker rats.
Again as Dr. Corrigan remarked,
“They (rats) are getting to war with one another, eating one another’s young in some populations and battling each other for the food they will find”.
Hence, applying the principle of natural selection, aggressive, more dangerous rats are likely to survive also.
Notable Areas With Increased Rat Infestation
While what you’ve read might look like a scene taken from a “Ratpocalypse” movie, it’s already happening. Wildlife professionals at rat-control.com reported an increase in rat sightings across the United States.
Here are some notable areas that have seen a notable increase in rat infestations:
- French Quarter, New Orleans
Just a few months into the pandemic (March 2020 to be precise), French Quarter had new swarms of dangerous rats wandering its famous streets. It didn’t take long for rats to come out of their hiding to search for new food sources.
- Manhattan, New York
After Manhattan went into lockdown in March 2020, the number of rat sightings registered on the city’s NYC 331 reporting system went up by 30% compared to previous years.
Hundreds of thousands of rats in Chicago boldly started checking out food, traveling farther and through the daytime – many finding their way into car engines.
- Other US Cities
Michigan households experienced a 24% increase in rats and mice. Rats and mice were up by 32% in Ohio and 50% in South Dakota and New Hampshire.
- The UK.
In case you’re thinking this is a uniquely U.S. problem, you’re wrong. Within weeks of the primary lockdown in March 2020, over 50% of pest controllers across the UK reported a rise in rat sightings when out on employment.
The CBC reports that some exterminators in Toronto have seen rat infestations increase by up to 20%.
Are Rats Carriers of the Coronavirus?
If there’s been a surge in rat infestations, then if rats are potential carriers of the coronavirus, this poses a serious health risk.
First off, there’s no evidence that rats can become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. However, they may move the virus around by moving through sewer pipes containing infected feces and bringing it inside people’s homes. However, not to worry, the risk of transmission through feces is extremely low.
Even if rats do not pose a serious risk in terms of spreading the coronavirus, they are still potential carriers of over 55 zoonotic diseases. Examples include leptospirosis, hantavirus, rat-bite fever, Salmonellosis, Toxoplasmosis, and many others.
Hence, it is still very important to avoid contact with rats, their urine, feces, and saliva.
Keeping Rats Away
Asides from the risk of transmitting several zoonotic diseases, rats are also notorious for the damage they cause – from wood damage to eating wires to tearing off the insulation. Hence, with the surge in rat infestations, the CDC recommends that you protect your property from these nuisance pests.
Here are some tips to bear in mind:
- Seal off potential entry holes
Rats get into homes through tiny holes. Also, rats can get into a building through the plumbing. That’s why you must thoroughly inspect your property to identify entryways rats can use. Seal off these holes with steel wool or caulk.
- Eliminate food sources
As noted earlier, the pandemic has drastically cut down the food supply for rats, especially in commercial centers. As a result, rats are turning to residential settlements to meet their calorie needs. And if food is abundant in your yard, that’s an open invitation to them.
Eliminate food sources to make your yard less attractive. Here are some tips to bear in mind:
- Ensure you close your trash cans properly.
- Do not leave pet food outside.
- Ensure you sweep seed crumbs from underneath the bird feeder.
- Properly secure the fruits and vegetables in your garden.
5) Remove stagnant water away from your yard.
- Eliminate hiding spots
Rats dislike staying in the open. Removing hiding spots from your yard will also make it less attractive. Here are some tips to bear in mind:
- Ensure you trim your lawn regularly.
- Remove abandoned objects from your yard.
- Declutter your garage.
To keep rats at bay for good, you must implement effective preventive measures. Doing that on your own might be challenging. But with help from professionals you can easily and effectively rat-proof your home and property and to learn more visit rat-control.com.
A Unique Opportunity for Rat Control
The number of rat infestations has indeed increased. Rats are bolder than ever before. But what you might not know is that this presents a unique opportunity for rat control.
Here’s what I mean. With the decline in food sources, rats cannot afford to get picky about what they eat. This, in turn, means that they are more likely to fall for baits. Hence, there’s no better time for rat control than now.
Rat snap traps are best used for killing rats because they are both effective and humane.
If you need professional help dealing with a rat infestation, promptly contact rodent control experts at rat-control.com today.
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