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Rats! Rats! Rats!

carole

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My dad told me of an incident his father had experienced when young. He and a friend were walking across Victoria Bridge (over the river Tees between Stockton and Thornaby) late one night (this would have been just before or just after the first world war), when hundreds of rats came across the bridge, so many of them that the two men had to jump up onto the bridge ramparts to get out of the rats' way. There was a flour mill and other warehouses and commercial buildings around the area, so presumably they were moving from one building to another.

I've read of other tales of mass rat migrations; do they still occur?

Carole
 

MrSnowman

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Only when a rat king leads them across the road. I wonder how fast rat kings move?
 

TheQuixote

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carole said:
My dad told me of an incident his father had experienced when young. He and a friend were walking across Victoria Bridge (over the river Tees between Stockton and Thornaby) late one night (this would have been just before or just after the first world war), when hundreds of rats came across the bridge, so many of them that the two men had to jump up onto the bridge ramparts to get out of the rats' way. There was a flour mill and other warehouses and commercial buildings around the area, so presumably they were moving from one building to another.

I've read of other tales of mass rat migrations; do they still occur?

Carole
How odd! My grandfather used to tell a story very similar to yours Carole that happened when he lived in Walsall West Mids. (happened in the late 1920's)
He was walking to work one morning, very early-about 4am, towards the centre of Walsall, and at the time there were various factories near to the town centre alongside the canal. He began seeing a large number of rats running towards him, away from the canal. After a few minutes there was apparently hundreds, so many that he had to climb up a lampost as they were swarming everywhere. Across from him, up another lampost was a policeman who had also been walking towards the town centre and had been caught in the swarm, my Grandfather said they were clinging for at least five minutes until all the rats had disappeared in the direction of another building up the road.
At the time this happened a fire had swept through a candle factory on the canal wharf and he thought the rats had been fleeing the fire on the lookout for new nests.
 
A

Anonymous

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Snowman X said:
Only when a rat king leads them across the road. I wonder how fast rat kings move?

Not that fast, I would guess. I've never heard of an example being found with any more than half of the rats involved still alive.
 
A

Anonymous

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Not that fast, I would guess. I've never heard of an example being found with any more than half of the rats involved still alive.

Rat Kings are real?!? I thought they were some kind of urban legend....thing. :eek!!!!: :cross eye
 

intaglio

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In the afterword to "Maurice" Terry Pratchett hints very strongly that he has seen evidence that rat kings were the creation of rat catchers; a sort of guild test; but I have not been able to trace that
 
A

Anonymous

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Midnight said:
Rat Kings are real?!? I thought they were some kind of urban legend....thing. :eek!!!!: :cross eye

'The Guinness Book Of Animal Records' (which I've lost, so I can't tell you the ISBN) lists several recorded occurrences of 'Rat Kings', which it notes only occur among Brown as opposed to Black rats.
 

escargot

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My nephew reckoned he saw a rat run across my garden yesterday. We keep 4 cats and 2 dogs, one of which is a Jack Russell, so I feel reasonably sure that the rat and its pals will stay outside.

Haven't found any material evidence of rattery going on though.
 

Min Bannister

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A friend of mine saw a mass rat migration when he was a boy. This would have been about 30 years ago. They dont occur anymore, at least not in this country.
They like to live among arable crops and traditionally legged it whenever harvesting began. I imagine the bane of all rodents, the Combine Harvester has something to do with this mass movement not been seen nowadays.

A flatmate of mine once claimed he saw a rat in our kitchen! Turned out to be a wee mouse.:p
 

marion

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My stepfather saw a mass migration of rats a couple of years ago in Somerset- they swarmed across the road, he had to stop his car and wait til they had gone, all credit to him- he has a bad rat phobia but waited til they had gone before driving off so he didn't hurt any :)
Rat kings- I've heard of squirrel kings too. I don't know if they happen naturally, I've kept lots of rats and none have ever had any that tangled tails!
 

Min Bannister

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Marion said:
My stepfather saw a mass migration of rats a couple of years ago in Somerset- they swarmed across the road, he had to stop his car and wait til they had gone, all credit to him- he has a bad rat phobia but waited til they had gone before driving off so he didn't hurt any :)
You don't get many encouraging wildlife tales so I am rather glad to hear that.:) And glad he didnt run any over!

I know many people don't like rats but I think they are rather misunderstood. I understand why people wouldn't want them in their house though!:p
 

llkit

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in responce to nov 05 FTs request in mythchasers, it seems rats can get to about 50cm big. My partner was walking to work from Leeds station via an underpass near TGI Fridays, when he saw six of the biggest rats he has ever seen. Needless to say he ran away.

He saw the rats from the path he was on, they were in some undergrowth/bushes roughly 7 metres away. some russling (sic) caught his attention, hence looking at the bush in the first place. He initially thought he was imagining seeing six rats, all about 50cm long, so he had a good look from roughly the same distance (no way on earth would i have gone any closer to investigate either) and scarily, yes giant rats hide in bushes in Leeds.

Needless to say I am now scared of giant rats as big as cats, please, if anyone has proof that rats cannot grow 50cm+ I NEED to know :shock: especially as I work outdoors in some pretty grotty areas (the largest I rat i saw was a skinny 30cm long one)
 

milk23

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I saw some as big as cats in India.
I thought they were cats at first but when I looked harder I saw the way they
moved and they could only have been rats. They looked very healthy
 

disgruntledgoth

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I once killed a big ass rat with a pick-axe, after I did it, It was only barely reminiscent of a rat so I couldn't measure it *yeuch*
 

llkit

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From now on, my maglite goes everywhere with me. :)
 

OneWingedBird

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*looks worried*

I know the place you're describing llkit :shock: never actually seen a rat live in Leeds though, except at a quarry nr Crossgates a long long time ago.

I asked a friend who lives in Brighton about this last night and she said that she speared one in the back garden once, said it was about a foot long including the tail. She said something about the chewing noise they can make being incredibly disturbing too, like you wouldn't think something should be able to chew like that :shock:

*has a quick google*

Pest Control Portal gives some details of the common rat (which sounds like the sort we are talking about).

BODY LENGTH: 20-27cm
TAIL LENGTH: 16.5-20.5cm
WEIGHT: 335g (100 - 500g)

So quite long but not too frightening on weight though. At least not if you have a 4.4kg cat in the house with you :twisted:
 

Graylien

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A rat 50 cm long (including the tail) is not as big as a cat, nor should you be any more frightened of it than you would be of a squirrel or badger or any other wild creature you might find foraging in your garden. However, wild rats can pass on diseases to humans through their bite, and, although essentially shy animals, they will defend themselves if you corner them (or possibly if you circle around them trying to guess how long they are).

(Incidentally, here's a rather scary webpage I found about the way 'adopted' squirrels can terrorise humans when they are thrown back into the wild: http://www.mary.cc/squirrels/tametowild.htm . Just because an animal looks cute, that doesn't mean it wants to be your friend!)
 

Bullseye

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Saw two rats once that at first I thought were very large Dachshunds,and a cat I used to have once caught one almost as big as himself,(though this was quiet a bit smaller than the two I saw.).
 

drjbrennan

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The biggest rat I ever saw was in a pest control animal experiment lab where it was kept as a pet and had grown large and fat. It still wasn't more than 30cm of body. Amongst pest control operatives, it is well known that the public,being unfamiliar with the pest rodents, consistently misjudge the size and weight of rats and mice.
 

ramonmercado

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Biologists hope to kill all of Rat Island's rats

Just one tiny misstep, one goof, and years of planning a $3 million wildlife project will be worthless. Last week, a crew of 18 left Homer aboard the crabber Reliance, bound for little Rat Island at the end of the Aleutian chain on a mission of devastation.


By coating the island with tiny toxic pellets in an operation that begins this week, scientists hope to exterminate Norway rats, which jumped off a shipwrecked Japanese ship in the 18th century and colonized the 6,871-acre island 1,700 miles from Anchorage.

"We're planning for success," said Steve Ebbert, the biologist and invasive species project leader at the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge who's coordinating the rat attack. "Weather is a big risk. We need a string of good days."

Rats have been removed from some 300 islands around the world, including islands in New Zealand and atolls near Hawaii. But it will be the first time rats have been removed from an Alaska island - if Ebbert and his team succeed.

Rat Island is one of the 2,400 islands in the sprawling refuge that stretches from Cape Lisburne on the Chukchi Sea to the tip of the Aleutian Islands in the west and Forrester Island in the southern Alaska Panhandle region in the east.

Rats inhabit about a dozen large islands in the refuge as well as many smaller ones, feasting on seabirds and their eggs. Such seabirds as puffins, auklets and storm petrels nest on the ground, often in cracks and crevices in the volcanic rock, and the foraging birds spend considerable time away from their eggs and vulnerable young.

And the rats are nothing if not prolific.

One mating pair typically has four to six litters a year with six to 12 young in each. Hence the need to kill every last one, Ebbert said.

Although refuge managers have removed arctic foxes - another nonnative species - from more than 40 of Aleutian islands since the 1940s, this will be their first attempt at large-scale rat removal there.

"It's our mandate as a refuge to conserve, protect and enhance seabird habitat," Ebbert said. "Rats have occupied (Rat Island) for 200 years - there's no place there inaccessible to rats."

Eliminating them is no small job.

Eighteen people will stay on the island up to 45 days, until Nov. 15. Among them are four helicopter pilots flying two copters, a mechanic and a medic. The copters will hopscotch their way from Anchorage, using four fuel stops en route.

The refuge's research vessel, the M/V Tiglax, will arrive by Oct. 1 to help with logistics.

The intent is for the helicopters, slinging buckets with 700 pounds of Rodenticide pellets, to spread the powerful toxin over the entire island twice.

"We want to do it twice with a seven-day period in between," Ebbert said. But if inclement weather hampers flying, "we want to make sure we get all of the island once."

The pellets are smaller than dog-food chunks, Ebbert said, each containing anticoagulant that makes the rats bleed to death.

The helicopters will use GPS to navigate straight lines. The GPS connects to a switch that opens the buckets carrying rat poison, dispensing it every few meters.

Afterward, biologists will remove a camera card from the GPS, plug it into a computer and print out a map of the area covered.

Everyone knows they must be perfect.

"To put it in its simplest form," said Steve Mclean, Bering Sea program manager of the Alaska Nature Conservancy in Anchorage, "a single breeding pair left alive is essentially a failure."

The Nature Conservancy has raised more than $2 million toward the project, Mclean said.

"We've done the best job in the world planning," he said. "And we've worked in challenging and remote areas before."

Timing is critical. Most of the few birds left on the island are gone by late fall. Winter would be ideal, but scientists are trying to balance that against when they can safely move people and equipment to the remote wind-and-rain-battered island.

Ebbert said scientists will return in two years to check if all the rats died.

If successful, Rat Island would become the third largest island to rid itself rats. The largest was the 27,922-acre Campbell Island south of New Zealand, and two of the helicopter pilots working Rat Island are New Zealand veterans. Since the eradication seven years ago, seabirds have returned and the Campbell Island Teal, one of the world's rarest ducks, has been reintroduced.

Worldwide, rats cause up to 60 percent of seabird extinctions, with most of those happening on islands, according to Island Conservation, a California-based conservation group focused on protecting island life.

"Rats are one of the worst invasive species around," said Gregg Howald, program manager for the group, which is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nature Conservancy. "If you go to Rat Island, one thing you will notice is that it is eerily quiet compared to the other Aleutian Islands that are literally brimming with life."

The risk of rat invasions is growing.

Thousands of ships - many with rats aboard - pass through the remote, stormy archipelago each year, transiting the Great Circle shipping route between Asian and U.S. ports. Traffic through Unimak Pass, a 28-mile-long corridor through the Aleutian chain, is roughly double the amount of vessel traffic to all Alaska ports combined, according to a 185-page report published by the Washington, D.C.-based Transportation Research Board, an arm of the National Research Council.

If the Rat Island operation succeeds, will a name change be forthcoming?

Not necessarily, said Ebbert, who pointed out that any name change must go through the U.S. Board on Geographic Names that is part of the U.S. Geological Survey. Many Alaska locations "have names that no longer work," he said, such as Green Timbers in Homer, an area that holds about an acre of dead spruce, trees that died following the 1964 earthquake.

But Mclean disagrees.

"We'd like to rename it," he said. "It probably had an Aleut name at some point. Once we remove the rats and that legacy, renaming it seems like the right thing to do."
http://www.physorg.com/printnews.php?newsid=141473679
 

taras

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ttaarraass said:
According to tonight's Reporting Scotland "nobody is ever further than 10 feet away from a rat". Is there any evidence for this? I mean, I'm pretty certain I'm not within 10 feet of a rat (I live on the 2nd floor).
I take that back. A few months after I posted this, we moved to a 4th-floor flat, and I can assure you I was never more than 10ft from a rat in that place. Usually closer.
 

goth13girl666

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ttaarraass said:
According to tonight's Reporting Scotland "nobody is ever further than 10 feet away from a rat". Is there any evidence for this? I mean, I'm pretty certain I'm not within 10 feet of a rat (I live on the 2nd floor).

Im afraid thats true, there are always near you although you hardly ever see or notice them they are shy! unless cornered :twisted:

I love rats i think they are amzing they each have their own character and they get alot of bad press which aint nice there not bad they are just misunderstood :D
 

ramonmercado

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Hmmm. I liked the rat in The Wind in the Willows and I get on okay with pet white rats. But I'm not so keen on the wild ones.
 

ramonmercado

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Dr_Baltar said:
ramonmercado said:
Hmmm. I liked the rat in The Wind in the Willows

Except he was a water vole :)

Really? Its been a while since I read it. He was certainly called Rat, Rattie etc When a black rat dropped in on him, he got the wander-lust.
 

BlackPeter

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The issue of never being more than 10 feet from a rat was recently debunked in Fortean Times (I have read it elswhere as well) as although widely quoted it is traceable only back to an unsubstantiated "fact" quoted by an MP in a speech in the 1950s!
 

Dr_Baltar

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ramonmercado said:
Really? Its been a while since I read it. He was certainly called Rat, Rattie etc When a black rat dropped in on him, he got the wander-lust.

Apparently. He was indeed called Ratty. I believe they're often referred to as water rats, even though the species are unrelated. It seems to have become one of these "Well-Known Facts" but I've no idea if it originated with Kenneth Grahame or not. I know Brown Rats happily live in and beside water so I'm not sure who decided he must be a vole.
 

goth13girl666

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BlackPeter said:
The issue of never being more than 10 feet from a rat was recently debunked in Fortean Times (I have read it elswhere as well) as although widely quoted it is traceable only back to an unsubstantiated "fact" quoted by an MP in a speech in the 1950s!

Even so rats out number us! :twisted:

Just think how many babies each female has at a time and how quick they have them :D
 

ramonmercado

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Bangladesh rat killer tops 39,000
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7874517.stm

The rat population has reached plague-like levels in Bangladesh
A farmer from north Bangladesh has been named the country's top rat killer after disposing of 39,650 rodents over the course of a year.

Binoy Kumar Karmakar, 40, won a 14in (36cm) colour TV in the government-backed competition to find the most prolific rat killer.

He used traps, poison and flooding to kill his quarry. He collected their tails as proof of his prowess.

His kill-rate was equivalent to one every 13 minutes, officials say.

The competition was part of a nationwide drive to stop food supplies from being eaten up by rats.

Plague

"During the year, our farmers killed around 25 million rats," agriculture department spokesman Abdul Halim told Agence France-Presse news agency.

"Binoy Kumar Karmakar has been declared the champion for killing 39,650."

Officials estimate that up to 10% of Bangladesh's crops - including rice, wheat and potato - is devoured by rats every year.

Last year a plague of rats destroyed the crops of tens of thousands of people living in the remote south-eastern Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Aid workers warned that the destruction left people in a "near-famine situation".

The UN's World Food Programme distributed food aid to 120,000 people for four months after last year's infestation.

The rat population soared because the rodents were feeding off the region's bamboo forests, which were blossoming for the first time in decades.

Neighbouring states in India suffered from the same problem.
 

ramonmercado

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Mutant Rats Resist Warfarin
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/138181.php
06 Feb 2009

A new series of mutations have been discovered that allow rats to resist the effects of the popular poison warfarin. Research published in the open access journal BMC Genetics describes eighteen new genetic changes found in rats from four continents.

Simone Rost from the University of Wuerzburg, Germany, and an international team of researchers studied more than 250 rats and mice from anticoagulant-exposed areas in Europe, East Asia, South Africa and the Americas. Rost explained that, "Resistance against warfarin-like compounds has been reported in rodent populations from many countries around the world and poses a considerable problem for efficacy of pest control."

Warfarin and related compounds are derivatives of the plant toxin coumarin. They prevent blood coagulation by repressing the enzyme vitamin-K reductase (VKOR). Rost and colleagues studied VKORC1, the gene responsible for a key component of the VKOR multiprotein complex. According to the authors, "Mutations in VKORC1 may cause a heritable resistance to warfarin, possibly by preventing coumarin derivatives from interfering with the activity of the reductase enzyme".

----------------------------
Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release.
----------------------------

Notes

1. Novel mutations in the VKORC1 gene of wild rats and mice - a response to 50 years of selection pressure by warfarin?
Simone Rost, Hans-Joachim Pelz, Sandra Menzel, Alan D MacNicoll, Vanina Leon, Ki-Joon Song, Thomas Jaekel, Johannes Oldenburg and Clemens R Muller
BMC Genetics (in press)
Article available at the journal website: http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcgenet/
All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

2. BMC Genetics is an open access journal publishing original peer-reviewed research articles in all aspects of inheritance and variation in individuals and among populations. BMC Genetics (ISSN 1471-2156) is indexed/tracked/covered by PubMed, MEDLINE, BIOSIS, CAS, Scopus, EMBASE, Zoological Record, Thomson Reuters (ISI) and Google Scholar.

3. BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com/) is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.

Source: Graeme Baldwin
BioMed Central
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