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Huge Rats Resurface in Florida

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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Read more: Nature, Nature & Wildlife, News & Issues, Wildlife,

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96 comments

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8:42AM PST on Jan 18, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

10:38AM PDT on Sep 11, 2012

this is some serious problem

9:30PM PDT on Aug 29, 2012

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

6:32AM PDT on Aug 18, 2012

To bi kinezima poslastica bila.

8:34AM PDT on Apr 20, 2012

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

3:01AM PDT on Apr 19, 2012

thanks for sharing :)

9:11PM PDT on Apr 2, 2012

my cat is licking his lips

7:52PM PDT on Apr 1, 2012

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!

6:27PM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

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.

10:31AM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

Wow - that is a whopper!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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