The federal government warned Americans to be alert for a new threat posed by the national coronavirus outbreak: “armies” of hyper-aggressive, cannibalistic rats.
Restaurant garbage containers are a major source of food for hundreds of millions of rats. With restaurants closed and no longer disposing of food, rats must become more aggressive in seeking foods, meaning they could begin entering homes.
“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.
There have already been reports of stressed, starving rats engaging in cannibalism.
“A restaurant all of a sudden closes now, which has happened by the thousands in not just New York City but coast to coast and around the world, and those rats that were living by that restaurant, some place nearby, and perhaps for decades having generations of rats that depended on that restaurant food, well, life is no longer working for them, and they only have a couple of choices,” Bobby Corrigan, an urban rodentologist, tells NBC News.
“It’s just like we’ve seen in the history of mankind, where people try to take over lands and they come in with militaries and armies and fight to the death, literally, for who’s going to conquer that land. And that’s what happens with rats,” Corrigan says. “A new ‘army’ of rats come in, and whichever army has the strongest rats is going to conquer that area.”
“They’re mammals just like you and I, and so when you’re really, really hungry, you’re not going to act the same — you’re going to act very bad, usually,” Corrigan says. “So these rats are fighting with one another, now the adults are killing the young in the nest and cannibalizing the pups.”
Corrigan says these rats will eventually find the sole remaining source of food: human homes.
“Rats are designed to smell molecules of anything that’s food-related,” Corrigan said. “They follow those food molecules like heat-seeking missiles — and eventually you know they end up where those molecules are originating.”
Officials in major cities already report more encounters between humans and the more-aggressive rats.
New Orleans officials already report rats have become more aggressive in taking over now-deserted city streets.
“What we have seen is these practices are driving our rodents crazy,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said at a news conference in March. “And what rodents do, they will find food, and they will find water. That puts our street homeless in dire, dire straits. And that’s why I’m so laser-focused on it right now.”
NBC News reports Washington D.C. has had nearly 500 calls regarding rodents, according to city 311 data. In nearby Baltimore, which has a robust rat eradication program, city data show that there were about 11,000 ‘proactive’ calls or online 311 requests about rats in the same period.”