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Ravenous rats await restaurant-goers after 2 months of food deprivation, CDC warns

A common brown rat.
A common brown rat.
(John Anderson / Tribune News Service)

Beware rogue ravenous rats.

That’s the latest coronavirus-tinged health warning from the CDC as the rodents that have been starved of restaurant leftovers these past two months make themselves known.

The CDC is warning that the species, evolutionarily adapted to resort to cannibalism during hard times, could exhibit “unusual or aggressive rodent behavior” stemming from its lockdown starvation diet.

Last month, rodents were seen resorting to open warfare, cannibalism and eating their young in the wake of shutdowns to restaurants and other food sources that they’d relied on.

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But that was so April.

Now they’re coming for us.

With limited or no service at restaurants and other food-service outlets comes a dearth of food scraps littering alleyways and heaped in dumpsters.

“Community-wide closures have led to a decrease in food available to rodents, especially in dense commercial areas,” the CDC said in recently updated rodent-control guidelines. “Some jurisdictions have reported an increase in rodent activity as rodents search for new sources of food. Environmental health and rodent control programs may see an increase in service requests related to rodents and reports of unusual or aggressive rodent behavior.”

New Orleans is one of those jurisdictions.

“I turn the corner, there’s about 30 rats at the corner, feasting on something in the middle of the street,” Charles Marsala of New Orleans Insider Tours and AWE News told CBS News, adding that he had never seen anything like it.

Rat upheaval is common during natural disasters such as hurricanes, the CDC noted. Their populations decline and then rebound as commercial activity returns to normal. The ones that survive are nasty.

It’s enough to evoke nostalgia for the days of killer rabbits and angry birds.

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But a rat invasion is not inevitable.

“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.

The agency also recommends monitoring and controlling the rat population, servicing rat traps more often and, for residents, sealing up any openings that the critters might breach in search of food that’s no longer available elsewhere.


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