Eastbourne Borough Council’s pest control team is remaining extra vigilant amid reports mutant ‘super-rats’ have been spotted in the town.
A series of national newspapers have claimed the rats, which are immune to regular poisons, have been found in a number of Sussex towns, including Eastbourne, Hastings and Battle, and are now spreading across the UK.
While the council has denied such claims, stating, “Eastbourne is currently not experiencing any problems in relation to reports of so-called super-rats”, it insists its pest control team still ‘remains vigilant’ during this time.
The mutant rats look just like any other but have a toxin-resistant gene that means they eat regular strength poisons, pellets and powders ‘like feed’ and so, while normal rodents are getting killed off in this manner, it only serves to increase the population of the resistant species.
Fears over the invasion of this so-called ‘super-rat’ are justified when it’s considered they carry bacteria, such as salmonella, and killer diseases, like Weil’s, which has been linked to a number of deaths including that of Olympic rowing champion Andy Holmes in 2010.
Pest control specialists have also warned pets could be in danger if bitten by a mutant rat as the build up of poisons in their body could prove lethal if passed on to other animals.
It is believed these poison-resistant rodents have been around for more than 50 years but researchers at the University of Huddersfield claim this is the first time it’s been found in Sussex. There has also been reported sightings in Kent and the West Country.
Dr Dougie Clarke, from the University of Huddersfield, believes a naturally-occurring mutation of genes was most likely to blame for the development of ‘super rats’.
He told the Metro, “We’ve seen an increase in their prevalence. It’s now a big problem in some areas of the south of England.
“The only solution is stronger poisons. There are concerns about poisoning of secondary animals and birds but, if it’s carefully controlled, it can be kept to an absolute minimum.”
There are an estimated 10.5 million rats in Britain – a number that could rise quicker than ever before with the spreading of this mutant species.
Rodents breed at a rapid rate, as well. With a gestation period of 21 days and females able to have up to 14 pups at one time, it’s possible for some breeding pairs to have 800 young in just two years.
It’s suspected the rats have reached the UK from the continent, most likely France.