A pest control expert warns Aucklanders to be prepared as an infestation of huge rats moves into Titirangi, invading houses and damaging property.
Rat numbers have exploded due to a 'mega-mast' year, where trees and plants produce high amounts of seed. They've also got a helping hand from a member of the community who has been leaving chicken food out.
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The rodents have gorged themselves on the feed and bred in huge numbers. A female rat can have five litters a year and each litter can be up to 14 babies. The babies themselves start breeding at just a few months old.
Now, rats reportedly the size of cats have moved into the village - and into people's houses.
"Last summer was really long so that increased their breeding time," Direct Pest Control owner Doug Morris told Newshub. "Now that winter has come they come inside because it's cold."
While the rats are as large as a feline, Morris says he's never known rats to attack cats.
"They could attack chickens, they could attack rabbits - although they won't be able to get to the rabbits if they're in cages," he says.
However he warns that while it "very seldom" happens, he's heard of babies being attacked by rats.
"This only happens if there's a large number of rats inside a house," he says.
Pest trap manufacturer Victor warns "young babies, bed-confined elders, and the homeless sleeping in doorways and alleys" are most at risk.
Overseas, the BBC reports a disabled French girl was "mutilated" by an attack in 2017. The 14-year-old paraplegic was savaged so badly some of her fingertips were bitten off.
The same year in the US, a baby suffered "severe skin destruction" after being gnawed by rats over several hours, the Independent reports.
Even without a taste for human flesh, rats are a problem in houses as they can cause leaks and power cuts.
"Rats have to chew - they have to wear their teeth down. That can be chewing pipes, chewing through cables, chewing through timber," Morris says.
How can you protect your home and your family?
Morris recommends keeping branches trimmed off roofs, and food in secure compost bins or on the ground to a minimum. He also advises clearing away undergrowth around houses. If overrun, call the professionals.
Waitākere Ranges local board chairperson Greg Presland told Newshub the council will be working on rat control measures in reserve areas.
"Council encourages all residents, businesses and property owners to all play a role in the control of rodents through baiting, trapping and being sensible with the disposal of waste," he says.
"Council can support the business and/or residential communities to take action (such as predator trapping) for biodiversity outcomes.
"Council will also scope options to manage the chicken issue for the consideration of the Waitākere Ranges Local Board at their July 2019 business meeting."