Regular users of the park may well have come across the odd rodent from time to time but sightings have become more frequent of late.
Bowlers were quite shocked to witness a rodent leisurely making its way across the green one sunny afternoon, totally unconcerned about interrupting an important match.
The knitters, who don’t shock easily, observed a fair bit of rodent traffic across a path one fine morning – whether this was one rat making multiple trips or a procession of several, they couldn’t decide. There was some speculation that the rat or rats were practising for a panto appearance; the keen watchers called out ‘It’s behind you!’ several times but, when the rest of the group turned around to look, there was nothing there!!
The rats we have are probably the common brown rat, Rattus norvegicus. Although we are all aware that there are rats around, seeing them out in the open, in broad daylight, is something else and reminds us that they are a public health hazard. They carry very nasty, sometimes fatal, diseases.
ITV broadcast an interesting programme about ‘super rats’ only last week citing research from the University of Huddersfield which has found that rats in several parts of Britain have genetically evolved to withstand commonly available poisons. The research was led by Dr Dougie Clarke who has been aware of this problem for some time, describing it as a time bomb. Read about more about the making of the programme here.
Genetic testing of rats in the sample areas found that some towns had rats that were 100% resistant to over-the-counter poisons. Our part of the north-west wasn’t in the sample but we shouldn’t assume that our rodent population is any different to those tested.
Obviously, this is something for the council to deal with and the problem has already been reported.
I don’t know how the council will deal with this but, the use of poisons, as well as possibly being ineffective, can be detrimental to wildlife. Anything that eats a poisoned rat will also ingest poison. There could be an opportunity here for a return to traditional methods of elimination such as mechanical traps or even employing musicians to entice the creatures down to the Mersey.
The main thing that we, park users and workers, can do to help is to remove what rats are eating – food discarded in the park is an open invitation to a rat; overflowing bins, piles of rubbish, untidy bird table areas – all contribute to making life easy for the Rattus family.
We do actually have a resident rat catcher who is very good at the job and has caught a fair number of the creatures already:
This is Lucy, a Jack Russell terrier cross, who is doing her bit to eradicate the rodents. She is very keen and seems to enjoy the work but it’s obviously too much for one small dog.
Maybe the groups of young people who congregate on the bowling green could be encouraged to do a bit of rat catching? Or, a local business could sponsor a competitive event with a rat statuette for the winner – there was something similar in WWI so it’s not that far-fetched an idea!
Any other suggestions?