Coronavirus-related lockdowns may be starting to lift in cities across the country, but Americans have something else to be worried about as they venture back out into society. Over the weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned in a new advisory of "aggressive rodent behavior" as they scramble to find new food sources after shuttered businesses meant fewer food scraps for them to scavenge.
Noting in the advisory that "rodents rely on the food and waste generated by these establishments," the CDC warned that "community-wide closures have led to a decrease in food available to rodents, especially in dense commercial areas." As a result, some areas have seen an increase in rodent activity as they search for new food sources. Environmental and health officials may witness an increase in service requests amid reports of "unusual or aggressive rodent behavior," the CDC added.
Although the CDC did not specify what "unusual or aggressive" behavior these rodents may be exhibiting, Bobby Corrigan, an urban rodentologist, told NBC News in mid-April that as a result of the lack of food, rats "only have a couple of choices." The grim realities they face, he said, include cannibalism, rat battles and infanticide.
"It's just like we've seen in the history of mankind, where people try to take over lands and they come in with militaries and armies and fight to the death, literally, for who's going to conquer that land. And that's what happens with rats. A new 'army' of rats come in, and whichever army has the strongest rats is going to conquer that area," he said. "They're mammals just like you and I (sic), and so when you're really, really hungry, you're not going to act the same — you're going to act very bad, usually. So these rats are fighting with one another, now the adults are killing the young in the nest and cannibalizing the pups."
To thwart the problem, the CDC urged residents and restaurant owners to take a number of preventative actions to "eliminate conditions that may attract and support rodent presence." Those preventative measures 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."
In some areas, action has already been taken. Speaking to The Times-Picayune newspaper, Claudia Riegel, director of the New Orleans Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control Board said the city is preparing aggressive pest control measures, explaining that New Orleans was "going to put a lot of pressure for at least the next month" until the population decreases.