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The Impact of Climate Change on RodentsPosted April 28, 2022

Thankfully, Boston is not in the top ten of most rat-infested cities in the United States… yet. The “ratpocalypse” – a huge jump in the rat population – may be coming and change all of that.

At its core, some of the effects of climate change don’t sound all that bad – like shorter, warmer winters and longer summers. Sounds nice for those people who like warmer weather.  But what most news reports aren’t talking about is how climate change is causing the ratpocalypse – a massive population explosion in rodents of all types especially city rats.

How Are Rodents Affected By Climate Change?

Rats and other rodents prefer warmer weather… a lot.

The brown rat, which is the most common rat in Eastern cities, usually has up to six litters a year, and most litters contain up to 12 pups. When the winter is harsh, a lot of those pups don’t make it. But when winters are warmer and wet, it brings out all the insects that provide a portion of the rats’ diet, and the weather itself is less of a hazard to baby rats.

Here in Boston, the city spends millions to fight the coming ratpocalypse… because a rat population explosion can happen fairly easily. Since a rat can get pregnant when it is just a month old (and a rat pregnancy lasts only two weeks!), if the weather conditions and access to food were right, then rats could, in theory, produce 24 litters a year. This means one pregnant rat can lead to up to 15,000 more in a year.

As if more rats were not bad enough by itself… more rats will also mean more fleas and ticks. Both these insects can carry a number of diseases that are especially dangerous to their human cohabitants, including Salmonella and even the bubonic plague. But just because the rats are bad for humans doesn’t mean they are necessarily bad for habitats.

Are Rats Bad for the Environment?

In short, yes… rats can be bad for the environment. When they are part of the natural order of things, rats play a role in helping control insect communities. But anytime there is an increase in population without a subsequent increase in predators, the environmental balance is disturbed.

Because rats have adapted so well to human environments, they create a hazard to the native plants and other animals as well as to human health. In addition, they pose a danger to property and crops as they will dig through almost anything – and eat most anything as well! They destroy habitats needed for other wildlife and consume food that would normally go to those other animals.

But the biggest danger rats present to their environment is disease. Rat-borne illnesses range from listeria and hantavirus (found in excrement) to diseases where they are a secondary host – like the bubonic plague. The plague is carried by fleas that live on the rats. Contrary to popular belief, the bubonic plague isn’t gone. Cases are reported every year in the U.S.

So, what can you do to prevent a climate change based Ratpocalyse?

A rat infestation can be difficult to eradicate on your own. For peace of mind and to help prevent a rat population explosion fueled by climate change… invest in professional pest control. With the rapid timeline of rat reproduction, the time to contact Fox Pest Control about rat control services is when you see the first rat.

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