Health

What does Dorset’s 21-inch mega-rat tell us about food and the modern era

A gaint rodent measuring 53cm (21in) has been trapped by a rat catcher using Manchester terrier. The number of rats in Devon showing a definite increase in size have risen, Terry Walker, the rodent catcher said in a statement.

On why the rats are getting bigger, walker said “They used to be 14in, 16in. Then 17 became the norm. Then 18,” he says. Last spring, he caught a whopper at 19in, only to see the record broken by a 20-inch rat in Hampshire a few months later. Rat-catching seems as competitive as fishing.

“Rats are omnivorous – they eat everything,” says natural historian Stephen Moss. So, leftovers of the high fat and high sugar diet of humans could be responsible for their growth? “It could be … But most of their food is from a range of sources, rather than mostly provided by us.”

“Growth hormones in the food chain could explain it,” offers Martin Kirkbride, chief rat-catcher at Genesis Environmental pest control in Oldham. “Or it could be a cross between a rat and something else, like a South American swamp rat.” He does not think, from the rats he has caught, that rats are getting larger.

Walker, who used a picture agency to share his record-busting rodents photographs, is positive the UK has a 60cm-long rat. “It’s out there somewhere,” he says. “It’s just down to the first person to find it.”

Let’s hope Walker finds it one day.

 

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