Feeds

Florida battles rats the size of cats

Gambian pouched rat menaces Keys

Boost IT visibility and business value

US authorites have just begun the final phase of a two-year offensive to eliminate the non-native Gambian pouched rat from the Florida Keys, Reuters reports.

The cat-sized rodent has for the last eight years been breeding in Grassy Key, 60 miles north of Key West, after an exotic pet breeder "allowed the critters to escape". Officials fear they might do a cane toad and spread across Florida, threatening crops and indigenous wildlife.

The US has now banned importation of Gambian pouched rats, amid concerns they may be a vector for monkey-pox, "similar to but milder to humans than smallpox", after the disease was "linked to Gambian rat contact with prairie dogs in the US Midwest".

Gary Witmer, a biologist with the US Department of Agriculture's National Wildlife Research Centre in Fort Collins, Colorado, explained: "They don't belong here and they need to be controlled. They could cause a lot of damage. They're a big rodent. They're not particularly attractive. I don't understand why anyone would want them as a pet. They're very messy animals."

According to Reuters' description of the beast, Witmer's right. The Gambian pouched rat weighs in at 6-9lbs (2.7-4 kg), and boasts "large ears, black, beady eyes, hamster-like pouched facial cheeks, sharp teeth and distinctive long, stringy and white-marked tails".

Wildlife officials have now begun to bait 1,000 rat-busting traps with peanut butter, almond extract, anise, and less appetising toxic zinc phosphide, hoping the animals will take a final meal and crawl off into their burrows to die.

But while Florida may soon be free of the Gambian pouched rat menace, it has other threats to face. In mid-April, officials captured an 8-foot (2.4-metre) Burmese python in a Key Largo state park, which had dined on two of around 500 remaining Key Largo wood rats - an endangered species. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.