Rats are growing in numbers in Wichita County, according to the Wichita Times Record News.
And the uptick in the rodent population has caused a population increase in one of their predators, rattlesnakes, the Record News reported.
Above-average rainfall and plentiful farm crops have caused the rodent population to explode both in the county and in Wichita Falls, potentially spreading disease and attracting rattlesnakes.
The rats have started to chew into car parts, according to the Record News. On Monday, Wichita County commissioners voted to pay $2,200 to a local car dealership for repairs to a Sheriff’s Department vehicle that was chewed on by rodents. “Extensive” damage was done to the vehicle’s internal wiring, Commissioner Barry Mahler told the newspaper.
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“The rats are everywhere. They’re as bad as I’ve ever seen them,” said Mahler, who also operates a farm north of Iowa Park. “I’ve heard of several instances where they’ve damaged vehicles and other equipment that’s left sitting out. They can do thousands of dollars of damage at a time.”
Sometimes, the rats’ voracious appetite borders on the unbelievable. Mahler recently bought a bucket of rat poison pellets and stored it overnight in his shop. The next day, the thick plastic container had been chewed through. The poison was gone.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.
The rodent population surge was not mirrored in Tarrant County and county officials are not seeing an increase in the rattlesnake population, Fred Hall, a Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service agent in Fort Worth, said in late October.
Earlier in October, Fort Worth police did wrangle a rattlesnake off a front porch on the west side of town, but Hall’s office hasn’t heard of a snake report in more than a month.
The snakes and their prey typically don’t thrive in Tarrant County, he said.
“Although we have had more rain than usual, we haven’t had the high-water habitat that would drive the snake or rodent population, “ Hall said.
Worldwide, rats and mice spread over 35 diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These diseases can be spread to humans directly, through handling of rodents, through contact with rodent feces, urine, or saliva, or through rodent bites.
Diseases carried by rodents can also be spread to humans indirectly, through ticks, mites or fleas that have fed on an infected rodent, the CDC website stated.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.