NEW TASTY TRAPS FOR TEES RATS; Peanut butter and curry aid in battle to rid town of rats.
CURRY and peanut butter are among the tastes being used to help combat the increasing rat population in Middlesbrough.
Pest control technicians were called to deal with 1,134 rat infestations last year.
In 2003 the council dealt with less than 600 calls to deal with rats.
Now to tackle the rat problem pest control technicians use pasta, curry and peanut butter flavours in the poison bait they put down to deal with rats.
The amount of takeaway food discarded, more people putting out food for birds in their gardens, and rats getting to discarded food in black plastic bin bags are among the reasons given for the rise in rat numbers.
Chris Hudson, Middlesbrough council's senior pest control technician, said: "We have created the problem because the rats come into our habitat and our waste is their food" He said pest control technicians now used poisoned bait flavoured with pasta, curry, crushed almonds, and peanut butter in tackling rat infestations.
"Peanut butter seems to be particularly palatable to the rats," he said.
Linda Cummins, a principal environmental health officer with the council, said: "Rats are more likely to take the bait if it tastes like something they are accustomed to."
She said one problem area was back alleys when people put black refuse sacks out too early for collection. The rats were able to tear open the bags to get to the remains of food.
She said that rats carried disease including Weil's Disease - suffered by gamekeeper and dad-of-two Sean Mason as reported in yesterday's Gazette - which was transmitted in their urine and could be fatal.
Problems with rats can occur near watercourses and in Middlesbrough where reports of rats near a beck are made checks are made to ensure the area is not also home to water voles which are a protected species.
Linda Cummins said that to help tackle the rat problem in the town the public should: * Dispose of all food waste properly. * Do not put black plastic refuse sacks out until the day of collection.
* Collect any food put out for birds at the end of the day - rats tend to feed at night.
* Check under decking and sheds and in compost heaps for signs of rats.
Middlesbrough's pest control technicians have seen the number of calls to mice infestations fall in recent years. Last year they dealt with 1,259 calls compared to over 2,000 in 2005.
Middlesbrough Council's Environment Scrutiny Panel is looking at the work of the council's pest control services and it has received a report on the numbers of requests the service receives.
Beechwood councilor Joan McTigue, a member of the scrutiny panel, said: "Part of the problem with rats is leftovers from fast food outlets thrown away by customers. Why can we not have a system whereby these hot spots are visited by council litter pickers before the rats get there - around 11pm to 1am?"
ADVICE: Linda Cummins, a principal environmental health officer, left, with Chris Hudson, the council's senior pest control technician PLAGUE: Rats, above, are being fed poisoned bait flavoured with curry, peanut butter and pasta, above right, to help tackle Middlesbrough's increasing rat population