Forget the Murder Hornets. Here come the Cannibal Rats

Let’s see. First, we got hit with the pandemic. Then there was a literal plague of locusts swarming across Africa. Then came the volcano lighting. We were next warned of an incoming wave of murder hornets. Well, the hornets have turned out to be something of a bust, at least thus far. But the next curse to fall upon your houses will probably sound even more messed up. Get ready for hordes of cannibal rats who are becoming increasingly aggressive according to some rodentologists at the CDC. (The Guardian)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned of “unusual or aggressive” behavior in American rats as a consequence of more than two months of human lockdown for city-dwelling rodents who now find themselves unable to dine out on restaurant waste, street garbage and other food sources.

Last month, according to the national health body, dumpster-diving rats were observed resorting to open warfare, cannibalism and eating their young in the wake of urban shutdowns.

“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.

They could have just said “rats” in this case, don’t you think? But the rats in some of our larger cities apparently are resorting to killing and eating their young in some places. And besides… “cannibal rats” makes for a much more catchy headline I suppose.

All jokes aside, what we’re seeing with these rats seems to be yet another unanticipated side effect of the “world without people” that environmentalists love to talk about. (There’s even a show dedicated to “Life After People” for apocalypse porn fans and it’s been running for multiple seasons.)

We’ve already seen clearer skies as smog quickly receded when people largely stopped leaving their homes. But there are other types of pollution that we generally don’t notice as much, particularly in our larger cities. One of those is the restaurant and grocery store waste that usually fills the city’s dumpsters on a daily basis. That provides an endless food supply for rats, who generally lurk out of sight as much as possible. (With Pizza Rat being the notable exception.)

Suddenly, food waste has decreased significantly and there aren’t so many easy meals for the rats to find. But would they really attack a human being if they become hungry enough? I did find one story of a young girl being hospitalized after being attacked by a swarm of rats in France a few years ago, but she was a paraplegic and unable to scare them off. Aside from that it sounds like rat attacks are extremely rare.

In the meantime, the rats will likely be thinning their own ranks for as long as the food supply remains minimal. There’s little in the way of good news coming out of this pandemic, but a temporary reduction in the number of rats might be one benefit. Let’s close with a video from New Orleans that was recorded by CCTV at the end of March. The rats on Bourbon Street are clearly not taking any time off, nor are they sheltering in place.