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Fall in rat reports due to charging; Vermin sightings down, claims survey.

Byline: By AMY HUNT Environment Reporter

RAT numbers in our region are on the decline, according to a vermin survey.

Figures collected by the National Pest Technicians' Association (NPTA) from the North East show fewer reports of rodents were made in 2006, compared with 2005.

But pest controllers say the statistics are skewed, because reports of rats and the size of the rat population are not the same, and are warning of a "reservoir of rats" hidden in the region which could cause public health problems in years to come.

Experts believe charges levied by councils for pest control services are putting people off reporting sightings of rats as they will have to pay to sort it out.

The report describes charging as "a step in the wrong direction," and councils to concentrate on "their original mission statement, dating back to the middle of the 19th Century, that they are there to safeguard public health."

It says: "This trend is said ... to be the cause of a growing reduction in requests for treatments or complaints and consequently making underreporting a hidden problem that only creates a time-bomb effect and a reservoir of rodents for possible future years.

"There appears to be a consensus within councils who charge for their service that the number of sightings of rats and mice reduces, yet everyone agrees this does not mean the number of rodents is lower."

As part of its National Rodent Survey Report 2007, (NPTA) asked all councils for figures of how many reports they had received of brown rats and mice.

In the North East the total number of requests for rat treatments fell, from 20,505 to 14,470 from the 2005/2006 to the 2006/2007 financial year. The total requests for mice treatments fell from 13,374 to 10,037.

The figures show a massive 40% decrease in the reports of brown rats, well over the national average of 23%.

The National Pest Technicians' Association (NPTA) has been carrying out its annual survey of rat populations since 1999. This year's survey shows a nationwide reduction in the number of rats and mice but NPTA highlights several possible underlying reasons for this.

Litter and waste food, in particular from takeaway and fast food shops, people overfeeding wild birds and badly organised compost heaps, allowing rodents to get in, are also cited as causes of rat and mice problems.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 29, 2008
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