The CDC has issued a warning that rat populations, which rely on garbage from restaurants for a major food source, are becoming extremely aggressive and could pose a threat to humans.
Apparently, no one told the rodents about curbside pickup.
“Jurisdictions have closed or limited service at restaurants and other commercial establishments to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Community-wide closures have led to a decrease in food available to rodents, especially in dense commercial areas,” the CDC said. “Some jurisdictions have reported an increase in rodent activity.”
For the rats, it’s lean times, indeed. Things are getting so bad that the rodents are attacking each other for scraps of food and cannibalizing their young.
“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,” Bobby Corrigan, an urban rodentologist, told NBC News. “So these rats are fighting with one another, now the adults are killing the young in the nest and cannibalizing the pups.”
As far as rats being “more aggressive,” it’s hard to imagine the rats being any more aggressive than they usually are in Chicago. The darn things are as big as cats and brazenly walk down the street as they go from dumpster to dumpster.
But searching for food will probably put them in direct contact with humans. That poses all sorts of additional problems.
Communities are right to be wary: Rats and mice can directly or indirectly transmit over 35 diseases, according to the CDC.
Residents and business owners should eliminate conditions that would attract rats, the CDC said, by sealing access points to buildings, discarding debris and heavy vegetation, keeping garbage in tightly covered bins and removing pet and bird food from yards.
Rats have been part of the urban landscape for thousands of years, so I’m sure they’ll survive just fine. And cities have been dealing with rat infestation for just as long. There’s no way to completely eradicate them, only contain them and the deadly diseases they’re capable of carrying.
“Rodent bait stations may become a more attractive food source for rodents, so stations may need to be serviced more often,” the CDC said. “It is important to monitor rodent activity during this time and develop indicators to help inform rodent control strategies.
I wouldn’t advise getting curious if you see a rat on the street. Giving it a wide berth is probably the safe thing to do.