Saturday, September 5, 2009

Rats!

There is a saying – widely regarded as an urban myth – that ‘in a city you are never more than ten feet from a rat’. Well, myth or not, in Newcastle this afternoon we were within less than ten feet of about twenty rats that were scampering over a triangle of grass near a pub, feeding on the lunchtime debris left in the grass around the picnic benches. The brown rat Rattus norvegicus is arguably second only to Homo sapiens as the world’s most successful urban mammal. We sat and watched them scampering around for about ten minutes, but unfortunately I only had a small pocket camera with me, so the pictures are not very good, but at least you can get some idea of the company we’ve been keeping today! While we were watching, as well as eating food scraps the rats were also eating grass and grass seeds, but never once attempted to nibble the scores of cigarette ends strewn around the benches – not a single smoker amongst any of them. Mostly they didn't take much notice of our presence, although they scampered back under the laurel hedge if we made any sudden movements.

10 comments:

  1. Sounds like another job for the Pied Piper!

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  2. Vermin maybe, but I find them fascinating.
    Such bold and opportunistic animals.

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  3. Interesting that you should suggest that, pinguicula - these rats were photographed about 100 yards away from the entrance to Seven Stories, The Centre for Children's Books http://www.sevenstories.org.uk/home/index.php
    Maybe they should stage a re-enactment of the poem and get a flute player to lead them all into the Ouseburn!

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  4. It was interesting watching them Keith. There were two old matriarchs who were very wary (which I guess is how they managed to grow old) and about twenty very young rates, which were much bolder.

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  5. They certainly can be bold. A while ago I had one in the garden feeding within a few inches of a pheasant. Glad I didn't have that many at once!

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  6. Ugh! I can feel my flesh creeping. Sorry to say, I have someting of a phobia about rats, Phil.

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  7. They have a phenomenal rate of reproduction John...they can breed about once a month in cities, producing litters of 7 each time, and the young can breed when they are 13 weeks old.

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  8. Can't say I'm particularly fond of them Emma, but this lot were amazing - they almost looked like they were grazing like sheep...

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  9. Oh, that's a lot of rats to see all at once and in broad daylight!

    I have to admit a fondness for rats and feel sorry for them for the awful reputation they have brought about by the media. I think that rats are only attracted to the debris that is left behind by humans..... and they're only trying to survive, which is what we all do. Oooops, here I go on my soapbox again. This is a bit of a sore point with me. lol

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  10. Hi Lesley,I think they may have had the pest control people in since these photos were taken......but you're right, they were after food debris

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