The mild and wet winter triggered what experts call a "rat plague" that's set to invade Britain this summer. Pest control experts warned that the rodents, which are expected to increase in numbers to millions, might outnumber humans by a ratio of more than three to one in the next six months.
The rats, which are expected to grow up to 2 feet long, have become immune to over-the-counter pest control poisons. According to the British Pest Control Association (BPCA), these super rats increased in number in the last few years because most of the poisons once used to kill them are now deemed ineffective.
"The rodents have become resistant and, in some cases, immune to off-the-shelf poisons to the point where they're actually feeding off the toxic pellets, which means their size and strength is increasing," Simon Forrester, chief executive of the BPCA, said.
The poisonous pellets designed to kill the rats became tasty treats for them, even helping them grow bigger and stronger by boosting their immunity. Pest control experts now estimate that the rat population, which is currently at 160 million, will increase to more than 200 million in time for summer.
"Reports of poison-resistant rats have been increasing in recent years and it seems likely that there'll be a further surge in numbers," Forrester added.
The warming climate contributed to the sudden increase of rodent numbers. Because of the wet and warmer winter this year, rats have unlimited access to natural food because most of Britain was not covered with snow for weeks.
If new poisonous pest control products aren't available immediately, the predicament will grow worse and rodent population will continue to rise. Since households take pest problems to themselves, the use of over-the-counter toxic pellets led to the rats' increased immunity. During rat infestation problems, residents call pest control experts to get the job done. They are experts in the field and they know what products to use.
"It's only natural that their numbers are expanding and there could be a significant risk to public health if their population is left unchecked," Forrester said. He added that with increased rat population, health risks are inevitable.
Pest controllers are now asking the European Union to approve a third-generation, stronger poison to deal with the rat infestation and prevent any future "rat plagues" in Britain.
Photo: Jean-Jacques Boujot | Flickr