Article by Alan Woods: An infestation of rats is taking over at Lake Meadows in Billericay and visitors are being urged to stop feeding the birds in a bid to control the plague.

Basildon Council says the population of pests has thrived this summer, with the mini beats feeding off leftover bread that families have thrown in the lake for ducks.

Signs will now be installed on the feeding platforms and around the lake to try and control the number of rats in the area.

[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Councillor Kevin Blake, deputy leader and cabinet member for leisure and arts"]We understand how much people enjoy going to the park with their families to feed the ducks, especially in the summer months. However, this summer the problem with rats in and around the lake feeding on the bread left for the birds has increased. As a responsible local authority it is time we stepped in and took action so the problem doesn’t worsen and pose a significant health risk to park visitors. However, we cannot do this alone. Without residents playing their part we will not be able to control this problem. We will soon be installing robust signs to warn people of the dangers of feeding the birds as well as running an awareness campaign highlighting the potential dangers caused by rats.[/quote]

Rats transmit diseases that can be fatal to humans, such as Weil’s disease and Murine Typhus. They also carry organisms such as Salmonella bacteria, viruses and parasites such as worms and fleas.

[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Simon Humby, the council’s environmental health manager"]Rats do pose problems, not only as a potential carrier of disease but also from the physical damage they cause such as undermining pathways and damaging drainage pipes, resulting in additional repair costs. Efforts to control infestations can be hampered by the public providing additional food sources as is the case at the park.[/quote]

Rats breed quickly - a healthy female can produce five litters a year each with between six and eight young, with these offspring attaining sexual maturity in eight to 12 weeks.

At any time it is estimated that as many as 30 per cent of female rats in a population may be pregnant.

Read original article by Alan Woods, image by Brentwood Gazette

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