NEW YORK - The lack of available food sources due to the shutdown of bars, restaurants, and other businesses during the coronavirus pandemic has reportedly lead to an increase in aggressiveness in rats as they become desperate for food.
With fewer options, rats turn on each other, even eating their babies, experts say.
One out of every four small businesses across the country has closed in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19, according to the the US Chamber of Commerce.
“If food does not show up for two or three nights in a row, they will try to find another source of food,” Bobby Corrigan, an urban rodentologist and the nation’s preeminent rat expert told NJ.com. “People are going to start seeing these rats and they’ll say, ‘Where did these rats come from?!’ The answer is they probably didn’t come from too far. Maybe a block or two or three away.”
Rats are not believed to carry the coronavirus but they do carry dozens of other diseases.
“We don’t want those animals in our apartments, houses, restaurants or grocery stores because you end up playing disease lottery if that happens,” Corrigan said. “You don’t want any one of those 55 diseases.”
Without food options, rats first will begin killing and eating each other and even eat babies alive from their nests.
“Rats have a very low tolerance for being hungry,” said Corrigan to NJ.com. “The strongest rats will start killing the weaker rats to get that protein instead of what the restaurant was providing, or they start moving down blocks or to areas where people have never seen rats before.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tips for keeping rats at bay including sealing up access into homes and businesses, removing debris and heavy vegetation, keeping garbage in tightly covered bins, and removing pet and bird food from their yards.
Recently closed restaurants should also be on alert for rats who could infiltrate and rapidly reproduce inside the building.