GIANT 18-inch cannibal rats are thriving during Britain's coronavirus lockdown and are moving away from cities and invading homes.
With restaurants and cafes closed in urban areas, the disease-ridden vermin have spread into the suburbs in the pursuit of food.
More than half of UK rat catchers have reported a spike in rodent activity since lockdown restrictions began in March, the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) said.
The beasts, some measuring 18-inches in length, are also engaged in “rat wars” as they gather together in “colonies” and attempt to take over rival turf.
In recent weeks, there have even been reports of the bloodthirsty rats eating each other.
Catcher Martin Kirkbride, of Openshaw, Manchester, said he had seen a surge in reports of infestations during lockdown with several calls every day.
He says some of the rodents have invaded homes with one case involving a colony in an upstairs flat.
Martin told the Telegraph of one incident in which huge rats had colonised the engine bay of an abandoned car near a Chinese takeaway which left rotting food in its alleyway.
He said: “These were normal 12-inch rats but there are certainly some bigger ones knocking around.
“People have posted pictures on Facebook of ones they’ve seen that are 18-inches or more.”
Martin, who hunts with dogs, says there is evidence that Britain's rat are growing immune to poison.
He believes there are more rodents in the UK now than there was during the industrial revolution – however most live in sewers meaning they are mostly out of sight.
The rat catcher said: “They live with us and are here because of us. The more people there are, the more food there is for the rats.”
Female rats can fall pregnant immediately after giving birth and can produce seven litters per year with up to eight babies each time.
They can also mate up to 500 times with randy males in the space of a few hours.
Professor Steven Belmain, of Natural Resources Institute in Greenwich, has also recorded an increase in rodents in suburban homes which he blames on a lack of food in city centres.
He also said that hunger has made the ravenous rats more brazen meaning they are seen more and more during the day.
Speaking about the rats fighting each other, he said: “They are quite territorial, so will defend their patches as much as they can.”
While rats do not carry Covid-19, they can spread other zoonotic diseases including Weil’s disease – a bacterial infection which can cause chills and headaches.
Professor Belmain believes that while some of the vermin will migrate back to the cities once the lockdown is over, many colonies will continue to expand in the suburbs.
He said: “What is happening is they are moving into residential areas and finding food sources there, so deciding to make it home.
“Some people are telling me they are having real problems.”
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