The Slatest

Desperate Rats Are Getting More Aggressive in Search for Food During Pandemic

A rat sits in the road outside 10 Downing Street, the official residence of Britain's Prime Minister, in central London on May 12, 2020.
A rat sits in the road outside 10 Downing Street, the official residence of Britain’s Prime Minister, in central London on May 12, 2020. TOLGA AKMEN/Getty Images

With restaurants closed, humans who don’t know how—or don’t like—to cook aren’t the only ones getting desperate. Rats have also suddenly seen their lives turned upside-down by the coronavirus pandemic and they’re becoming more aggressive and daring in the search for their daily bread, warned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Whereas rats usually stuck to the commercial areas of dense urban areas, where there was plenty of food to be had, they’re now increasingly venturing into more residential areas.

“Jurisdictions have closed or limited service at restaurants and other commercial establishments to help limit the spread of COVID-19,” the CDC said. “Rodents rely on the food and waste generated by these establishments. Community-wide closures have led to a decrease in food available to rodents, especially in dense commercial areas.”

Since the coronavirus-related closures began there have been increasing reports of rodent sightings, with experts talking about increasing instances of cannibalism and infanticide. “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.” Corrigan told the Washington Post about a photo he saw of a “gruesome rat battle in Queens” when the rodents turned on each other. “A pile of rat limbs on the sidewalk was all that remained,” noted the Post. One video went viral showing lots of rats swarming the streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans, for example. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the rats were going “crazy.”

Now the CDC is warning homes  and businesses to take extra care to avoid attracting rodents.  “Preventive actions include 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,” the CDC said.