One of the questions being tossed around during this Covid-19 pandemic is the emergence of rats in response to social distancing. We wrote an article months earlier asking what effect Covid-19 will have on rodents and it appears we are starting to see those effects. Due to cities shutting down services and restricting interactions via social distancing there are less people out in the public and that means there is less waste for rats to scavenge through. Will the rat population decrease due to starvation or will there be an outbreak of rats as a result of being forced to find food elsewhere? The significance of these questions has to do with rat populations possibly moving into areas where they are not commonly seen and causing a stir amongst home owners and those living outside of the city limits. Something no one wants to deal with!
Rat Sightings Increase During Covid-19 Pandemic
In May, the CDC highlighted tips to keep rats from being attracted to your living quarters and noted the potential for an increase in rodent populations. With fewer restaurants operating, the food waste that is usually left behind has decreased leaving rats hungry. Particularly, in the cities where rodents survive off of the food waste and trash that people leave behind. Less foot traffic has resulted in less waste which would normally be a good thing but not for rats. When rats go just a matter of days without food their natural instincts lead them to eat each other and even their young. Protein sources are important for these nocturnal critters and they have no problem eating what is available. When they can’t find an available food source to sustain them they will start moving until they do. Pest Control companies have already reported an increase of calls for rat sightings around peoples homes and some data is linking this increase in rat calls as a result of social distancing. Unfortunately, less garbage in the city has these rats finding new places to scavenge. Inside Edition’s ‘Rat Patrol’ hit the streets a few months ago and found dozens of them swarming around trash cans, scurrying down sidewalks and even climbing up into cars. Using flashlights, our cameras spotted them emerging from sewers to raid the deserted Manhattan streets without fear, even in swanky areas like Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The most intense swarm of rats we saw was outside a Midtown Chipotle not far from Radio City.
Do Rats Carry the COVID-19 Virus?
Do rats get COVID-19? Experts think that it is not likely like that rats are generally infected by the virus but two species have been reported to be found with the it. A recent article from the Independent did report that Rats at food markets and restaurants were found to carry several strains of coronavirus. Regardless of whether rats are directly carriers of COVID-19, rats transmit a number of infections via their fur as well as other pathogens that can lead to immunosuppression all of which making an infected individual at risk of getting the virus.
Should I Expect A Rat Outbreak?
The only outbreak that people will probably see during this time, with rats becoming increasingly hungry and searching elsewhere for food, is more rats showing up in places most people would not typically see them. It’s not to say that the rats are traveling to your home all the way from the city but it is to say that they will make themselves more known. When rats get hungry enough they become desperate and that desperation has an impact on their behavior. Typically speaking, they often become more aggressive and care less about hiding. The world may be social-distancing themselves but these rats have no problem being up close and personal if that’s what it takes to get a meal. If they can eat their own young, they can certainly scavenge around your trash bins, even in the broad daylight hours. This all being said, it’s in everyone’s better interest to just keep an eye out and take the precautions necessary to avoid these rodents drawing near to home.
How To Keep Rats Away From Your Home
- Keep all lids closed and sealed on your trash, debris and recycle bins
- Seal any food containers that you store in your garage or shed
- Trim back all plants and hedges around your home so rats do not have a place to hide
- Seal all external entry points that you can visibly see. Even those as small as a quarter
- Keep all wood piles at least six feet away from your home
- Cut back any overhanging branches from your home
- Do not leave out pet food overnight
- Do not feed other wildlife near your home; bird feeders, squirrels, etc.
If you suspect that you have rats, the best thing to do is call your pest control specialist and have them come out to assess your rat problem. With social distancing becoming a new normal in our society, the potential of seeing rat sightings increasing in numbers where they are not typically seen is very likely. Keeping an eye out around your home and following the steps stated above will help in preventing rats from becoming a problem.