UK there are two types of wild Rat, The (Black) (Ship) (Roof) Rat (rattus rattus) and The Norwegan (Brown) Rat (rattus norvegicus). For many years it has been claimed that the Black Rat was the one that carried fleas that spread the Bubonic Plague which killed around 40% of the population of Europe in the 14th century, however recent investigations are questioning the validity of this claim, attributing the spread to a variety of other reasons. Black Rats are so rare now that you can count yourself lucky to see one! Unfortunately Bubonic plague still exists and with that in mind we will look at the Brown Rat (Rattus Norvegicus).
Rats can grow up to 40 cm in length and between 350 to 500g in weight. Their favourite foods are cereal products, although they will eat almost anything, their daily diet usually consists of around 30g of food and 60ml of liquid. A great deal of damage is done by Rats gnawing electric cables, ripping open packets and fouling food-stuffs with their urine and droppings, which presents a real danger to human health.
Rats generally have 7-8 young and 3-6 litters a year, with a gestation period of about 3 weeks. They are sexually mature at 10 to 12 weeks, meaning the Rat population can rise at an astounding rate. Rats live practically anywhere they find food and water. In your home, Rats will live in loft spaces, wall cavities, cellars or under floors and kitchen units, in the garden they live under sheds (their favourite place), compost heaps, grassy banks or under ponds. They are also commonly found living in sewer systems and are very good climbers and swimmers so basically they are at home almost anywhere.
Are Rats Dangerous? – In a word Yes. Rodents carry diseases that may be serious or even life-threatening to people . Weils Disease (Leptospirosis) being the commonly known one, causes flu like symptoms and in some cases is fatal. However rats can carry many more chronic diseases including Salmonellosis, Bubonic Plague, Septicemic Plague, Pneumonic Plague, Tuberculosis, E.Coli & Foot and Mouth Disease and Cryptosporidiosis. These diseases can be devastating and sometimes fatal, they may be caught from surfaces or water contaminated with urine. Always wear waterproof gloves when working in areas that may be infested. Cover cuts and abrasions with waterproof dressings. Wash exposed skin thoroughly before eating, drinking or smoking and after completing work. If you regularly work in rodent-infested areas, your employer should provide you with the HSE pocket card, Leptospirosis: You may also obtain one from HSE Books.
Major changes in the law regarding trapping and in particular product labelling, restricts many rodenticides to professionally qualified users only and the introduction of The CRRU (Campaign for Responsible Rodent Control) means that strict guidance for the control of Rats and Mice must be followed at all times, the penalties for failing to do this are severe. There are several reasons for this including the risk of rodenticides falling in to the wrong hands or the effect on non-target species such as Dogs, Cats, and other Pets and secondary poisoning in Owls, Kestrels, Foxes, Badgers etc. A good knowledge of the legal requirements when controlling rodents is essential and we constantly update our professional training portfolio to ensure this is the case.
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