A POPULAR seaside resort is under siege – by a plague of giant rats, residents said today.
Locals have found themselves battling an infestation of “massive” rodents in Newquay, sparking fears an outbreak could be on the cards in Plymouth.
Pest control experts are warning more needs to be done to combat an alarming rise in the rats’ numbers.
People living in the town say they have been plagued with the giant creatures and are worried the super-sized vermin are becoming increasingly bold.
They say a new housing development may have disturbed the vermin who are now prowling the resort.
Figures show the number of reported rats in the town has gone up 50 per cent in the last year.
Experts add that the rat population has been allowed to swell since the council stopped killing them for free.
One resident said: “I’m not happy with the situation. I have a daughter who’s seven and she’s seen dead rats in the garden. She’s quite a girlie girl so she doesn’t like them at all.
“They are massive – really big for a rat. Some of the cats that live further up the road would think twice about going after one.
“Since there’s been this development across the road I’ve had to get rat traps now. We never used to have them.
“It’s destroyed their habitat. Now the marshland has gone they’ve had to find somewhere else to live. It’s really disrupted local wildlife.”
Cornwall Council no longer provides a free pest control service for domestic premises, although by law it has a duty to ensure occupiers of land keep it free of rats and mice.
Since Cornwall Council scrapped the free service the number of rats being reported by the public across Cornwall has increased by almost 50 per cent.
The figures from Cornwall Council show complaints went up from 206 in 2012-2013 to 304 between 2013-2014.
Dave Cornish, of D Cornish Pest Control, said since Cornwall Council stopped funding the service he has been getting more reports of rats.
But despite this he said business had not picked up because the majority of people were not prepared to pay for professional help.
“They’re not going to go away if you ignore them,” he said. “The only way realistically is to get a professional pest control company to sort it out.
“There’s a lot of legislation with traps, by law they’ve got to be checked twice a day, and people don’t know how to put poison down properly and put it in the wrong places.
“A lot of people chuck it down and you find dead birds. It can be harmful to pets too.”
Mr Cornish said the best way to prevent a rat infestation is to keep lids on rubbish bins, and to sweep up excess bird food every night.
“If people don’t address the problem in another two or three years we’re going to be overrun with rats,” he said.
Last month a Plymouth City Council spokeswoman said: “This is the start of the breeding season so rat populations do increase at this time of the year and, therefore, steps should be taken to control numbers.
“If the public spot any rats we’d ask them to call our Pest Control team.
“If someone has a problem with rats in their home, our team will provide a free treatment.
“We also offer highly competitive rates to treat issues with mice, wasps and fleas.
“Services are also available to businesses at equally competitive rates.”