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RISE OF THE SUPER-RAT; Litter louts bring new breed of vermin resistant to poison.

Byline: By Brian McIver

THEY are the scurrying, gnawing monsters that bring terror to the hearts of town and city dwellers - and now they are getting bigger and bolder.

Rat catchers have reported a rodent measuring 22 inches in London, and in Edinburgh, environmental health chiefs found an18-incher.

The British rat population is also on the rise, with 60 million now roaming our streets and sewers.

The so-called breed of super-rats, which are resistant to poison, is just one symptom of the growing vermin problem.

Aflippant attitude to discarding waste is also being blamed for the boom in numbers.

Pest control experts warn it is only going to get worse, unless the public wise up and clean up properly.

Keep Britain Tidy recently launched an advertising drive to warn of the links between litter and rats. The campaign group has said that today's rats are living closer to humans and becoming harder to kill.

Oliver Madge, chief executive officer of the British Pest Control Association, warned: "Rats are not necessarily becoming more aggressive, but they are finding they can quite easily live with, and off, humans.

"And we are finding that some of the main poisons that our industry uses are not working because, what we would have considered a lethal dose, they are eating and surviving.

"What we need to do is look at tackling the problem on all levels. People need to realise that, if they leave litter and food about, they will get rats.

"If people do discover a rat problem, then they need to deal with it properly, because if you do not, then they will be back, bigger and stronger. A rat needs food, water, safe harbourage and constant temperature to live.

"We can't do much about the temperature, but everything else we can look at, and people need to make sure they are being more careful with their litter."

That is the message from litter campaigners, who blame discarded takeaway containers, food waste and general rubbish for the rise in the problem.

Peter Gibson, of Keep Britain Tidy, said: "Rats are living longer, breeding more and are becoming bolder as well, with more sightings in daytime.

"And the reason for that is simple - there is more rubbish on the streets for them to feed on so they are becoming stronger.

"People staying out later at nights and leaving takeaway food containers around, as well as apple cores or banana skins, are causing a real problem."

Apair of brown rats can produce 200 rat babies a year - and a full-grown one can also squeeze through ahole the size of a 10 pence piece.

Arodent report last year compiled by the National Pest Technicians' Association has shown that rat-related call-outs by Local Authority pest control officers have gone up by 26 per cent since 1998.

The NPTA said other reasons for the increasing population were related to reduced baiting of sewers by councils, over-feeding of birds leading to bread on the ground and a warmer climate which allows the beasts to flourish.

Chief executive John Davisson added: "I have heard that 75 per cent of all calls are related to bird tables throughout the year."

Jim Byrne, a Senior Pest Control Officer with Edinburgh City Council, said he did not think Edinburgh had amajor rat problem.

He claimed: "Like every other city, there are rats, and we cannot totally eradicate them, but we can try to control them.

"There have been more complaints about rats to our office, and I think that is to do with milder winters and food waste being left by members of the public.

"I have never seen a 22-inch long rat, but a colleague has seen one which was 18 inches."

Peter Ewen, Senior Environmental Health Officer with Aberdeen City Council, said: "We generally get between 150 to 180 calls or complaints a year."

One part of Scotland which is just about rat-free is the Hebridean Island of Canna, which was the site of amajor rat cull a year ago over threats to wildlife.

Using New Zealand-based experts, they laid 4200 bait traps last summer and, along with a helpful and litter-conscious local community, eradicated the problem.

'Every city has them. We cannot eradicate the problem, but we can make an effort to control it'

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WASTE: More litter is being dumped' PEST: Rats are growing in size and in number in major cities across the UK
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 20, 2006
Words:737
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