‘Cat-sized’ rats take over popular beach town
Huge rats brazenly scurrying about in a West Auckland village centre in broad daylight are concerning the local community.
Residents and business owners have noticed an infestation of cat-sized rats in the village centre in recent months - and many believe the town's iconic chickens are to blame.
A local worker told the New Zealand Herald she had seen rats "running across the road, from one side to the other" in the middle of the day.
She said the bodies of the rats were up to 30cm long. Other residents had described them as being "as big as a cat".
The woman said she had never seen rodents in the village centre before but had noticed them a couple of times in the past month or two.
She believed it could be because the winter had been relatively dry and mild so far so they were thriving.
With so much bush in the area, the increase in rat numbers would not be "healthy" for the birds and other native wildlife in the area, she said.
Titirangi Village Kebab owner Thomas Yadegary said the rat problem was a worry for him.
He had not yet seen the pests but said locals had told him of sightings of them across the road from his shop and he was concerned they might become a real problem for him.
"It's worrying for me too. We are one community. We have to work together to find a solution."
He said the problem had popped up over the past three to four months.
"The population (of rats) is growing and there seems to be getting more and more."
Scientists agreed it could be because of the weather with a "mega-mast" expected this year.
A mast was when trees seeded and a mega-mast was when there was widespread seeding across the country, DoC principal science adviser Dr Graeme Elliott told the Herald earlier this year.
The seeds provide plentiful food for native species as well as pests like rats and stoats.
Scientists had predicted this year would see the most significant and widespread mast in 24 years.
Elliott said the driver behind such events seemed to be the difference in weather between two summers - with this summer being much warmer and drier than the last.
Victoria Jack, a resident of the leafy suburb, said the rats moved in groups of up to 10 and were not scared of humans.
She said some of the rodents she had seen were at least the size of her small cat.
Ms Jack was among the many Titirangi residents who believed the area's chicken population was fuelling the rats.
Among the hundreds of comments on Facebook, many residents said the people were overfeeding the chickens leaving plenty for the rats to feast on.
Others said there were always rats in the area because of the bush and did not believe this year was any different to past ones.
Rachel Svoboda said she lived in the bush and her cats regularly brought large rats into the house but she had not noticed more than usual this year.
But the council had limited powers to control chickens, rats or the feeding of non-native species, Waitākere Ranges Local Board chairman Greg Presland said.
"It is possible that the rats are associated with a chicken infestation which has been a long standing problem."
Presland said he had not seen the rats himself but he had been told about them and provided with photos of the infestation.
It was the responsibility of businesses and homeowners to manage pests and he encouraged them to help control the infestation by baiting, trapping and "being sensible with the disposal of waste", he said.
The council would, however, be working on rat control measures in the reserve areas which Mr Presland hoped would benefit the whole village.
The council could help businesses and communities fund predator trapping to protect the biodiversity of an area, he said.
Mr Presland said the council was also looking at options for managing the chickens and would report back to the local board in time for its July meeting.
This article originally appeared on the New Zealand Herald and was republished with permission