Rats Turn to Violence, Cannibalism in Times of Coronavirus

Desperate times call for desperate rats

Subway rat under a bench
During the coronavirus outbreak, some rats are dining on ... other rats.
Ludovic Bertron/Creative Commons

In normal times, it’s easy to be a rat. Cities abound with garbage, and discarded food scraps can be found just about everywhere. Anyone who’s ever seen a rat scamper around subway tracks or delight in an overflowing garbage can can confirm this. But we’re not in normal times now; public transit is far less utilized, and outdoor trash cans in parks and on sidewalks aren’t getting nearly as much garbage in them.

So what’s a rat to do under such conditions? Based on a new report at NBC News, the results sound deeply dystopian — just, you know, a dystopia for rats. Writer Dartunorro Clark spoke with urban rodentologist Bobby Corrigan about the current state of rat life in cities. The results? Rats are angry, hungry and extremely territorial. Also, they’re eating each other.

“They’re mammals just like you and I, and so when you’re really, really hungry, you’re not going to act the same — you’re going to act very bad, usually,” [Corrigan] said. “So these rats are fighting with one another, now the adults are killing the young in the nest and cannibalizing the pups.”

That rumored Ratatouille sequel just took a very bleak turn, huh?

As Clark writes, the altered behavior of urban rat populations has prompted certain city governments to respond to the changed circumstances in differing ways. Corrigan advises humans to avoid panicking.

“This is not going to be a case where all of a sudden the rats are doing invasions everywhere,” he told Clark. Based on this, it sounds as though humans don’t have much to worry about. Other rats, on the other hand, might face more of a threat.

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