People are being urged to stop feeding ducks bread after a rat infestation was spotted at Hampden Park pond.
Resident Margaret Morrison was shocked to see scores of the rodents ‘taking over’ the park when she visited at the weekend.
She said, “The ducks and swans are stressed with the excessive rat population - people throw too much bread and food so rats take over!
“They are all around the pond. In that area there seems to be a heavy population of them. They don’t seem to mind people, they were scurrying all over.”
Mrs Morrison, who visits the park regularly, said signs need to be put in place to remind people not to overfeed the birds.
She said, “People need to learn. It’s got much worse recently, but if people are constantly littering they are going to be there.”
She also said, “And they mustn’t give ducks bread because it’s bad for them. Their bones don’t develop properly and they can’t fly.
“People throw huge chunks and the seagulls come screeching down to get it.
“The decoy pond ducks are not used to eating lettuce, someone dumped a whole load of chopped lettuce and carrots, and it all sat there.
“I have seen people throwing peas in to the ducks but they ignored those. Some people have put lots of rolled oats which has also sat there for the rats.”
She also drew attention to the pond’s resident terrapins, believed to be former pets left in the pond, which she said had been known to harm ducklings.
A spokesperson for Eastbourne Borough Council said its environmental health specialists were dealing with the issue but said the public needs to take responsibility too.
They said, “The problem is exacerbated by people visiting the pond and using bread to feed the ducks. Bread is of limited nutritional value, it causes aggressive behaviour between the birds and encourages large numbers of seagulls.
“Droppings from the seagulls add to the pollutants in the water, as does the uneaten bread, which is also a food source for the rats.
“Signs will soon be in place asking the public not to use bread to feed the birds.
“The council has undertaken a great deal of work to improve the biodiversity of Hampden Park pond but members of the public must play their role in helping to maintain this popular local attraction,” they said.
They advised anyone who no longer wants a pet terrapin to rehome it responsibly or seek advice from the RSPCA.
Lean more about what to feed ducks at www.britishbirdlovers.co.uk