Huge Rats Resurface in Florida

Gambian Pouched Rats have repopulated an area in the Florida Keys. They are a nonnative species and one of the largest rats in the world, weighing up to nine pounds. There is concern for their impact on native species and for spreading from Grassy Key to the mainland. Additionally, they might pose some threat to human infants. Last year it was reported two infants were killed by giant rats in South Africa.

These rats can reach 30 inches long (including their tails) and are omnivorous, eating insects, vegetables, snails and crabs. How did they end up in Florida? Like many other nonnative species there, they were imported as pets but later a concern arose over spreading monkey pox, so there was a ban in 2003.

Some of the signs of monkeypox are fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, and exhaustion. In rural central and west Africa, some fatalities from the virus have been reported.

Eradication efforts took place in 2009, and they were observed again in 2011, but it is thought there are probably just several dozen now. Still, these rats reproduce prolifically and can have five litters a year, or up to about 20 offspring annually. They were released in the Keys by a breeder around 2002-2003.

Florida has been battling a number of nonnative species, including Burmese pythons, which are eating local species and could wipe out many important native animals. Buying exotic animals as pets is almost never a good idea, and releasing them into local habitats such as forests or parks is a very bad idea.

Image Credit: FWS, Public Domain

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Duane B.
.2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Riccardo Pelizzo
3 years ago

this is some serious problem

Manuela B.
Manuela B.3 years ago

I don't think this one will fit my rat trap....

Ajla C.
Past Member 3 years ago

To bi kinezima poslastica bila.

Siti R.
Siti R.3 years ago

yikes! the law about keeping exotic pets ought to be revised. this is the consequence of Man's actions.

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Melinda K.
Past Member 3 years ago

my cat is licking his lips

Dale Overall

Yes, Marie W., a good point...these rats will certainly help out those hungry pythons!

Interesting about all the non-native wildlife being spread about the world be it Purple Loosestrife weeds, zebra mussels and the like-- one wonders what would happen if penguins made it to the Northern Arctic...

Well, lets hope that modern man will not destroy absolutely everything on the planet Lynn C., and somehow there will be a way out of the usual mess instead of total mass destruction of all life--a few hardy species like cockroaches will survive no matter what--but hopefully we figure something out before then!

Carole F.
Carole f.3 years ago

omgosh! the smaller ones were ugly enough! the word "non-native" always makes me queasy:think those ugly walking fish. people need to be more responsible as members of society and think of others as much as they think of themselves.

Suzanne Osborne
Suzanne Osborne3 years ago

Wow - that is a whopper!