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CDC Warns Americans That COVID-19 Is Making Rats More Aggressive

Without regular sources of food like restaurant trash, rats are forced to get bolder.

The restaurants shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t just feed people. Their trash was a regular source of sustenance for rats, and without it the rodents are getting desperate. Really desperate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning last week that rodents searching for food might display unusual or aggressive behavior. Some jurisdictions have already reported an increase in rodent activity, a trend that likely won’t reverse until restaurants reopen.

“They are going to war with each other, eating each other’s young in some populations and battling each other for the food they can find,” Bobby Corrigan, an urban rodentologist, told the New York Times. He’s seen evidence of rodent cannibalization from exterminators around New York City, which tells you just how grim things are for the city’s unofficial mascot, non-pigeon division.

But there is some good news for humans. One, COVID-19 is not among the diseases rats are known to spread, so you don’t need to worry that Templeton isn’t wearing a mask. Two, rats have not become more aggressive toward people, saving their ire for their own species.

Still, it’s more likely that you cross paths with a rat today than it was before the pandemic. They typically stay close to food and water sources to minimize their time out in the open, but when those sources disappear they’re forced to venture where people are present, a phenomenon that’s happening not just in big cities but in rural and suburban areas as well.

The CDC recommends sealing access to homes and businesses, clearing debris and heavy vegetation that can provide hiding spots for rodents, tightly covering garbage bins, and making sure that pet and bird food isn’t stored outside. It’s common sense stuff, but it can mean the difference between confront a herd of aggressive rodents or going through life without that particularly hellish memory. It’s up to you.