[A] breed of giant, Gambian rats have been rapidly reproducing in the Florida Keys despite a decade-long effort to wipe them out. KeysNet reports the invasive, African native species first began showing up between 1999-2001 after a local exotic animal breeder released eight of the rats into the wild.
“We thought we had them whipped as of 2009,” said Scott Hardin, exotic species coordinator for Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “We think they have not moved far but they clearly reproduced,” he said.
The rodents, officially known as the Gambian pouched rat, are the largest known breed of rats in the world. They can grow up to three feet in length and weigh as much as nine pounds. Wildlife officials fear that if the large-sized rodents make it to the Florida mainland, they could devastate local crops if they reach the Florida mainland.
A positive side to the rats, as you can see from the photo below, is that they make good pets. Perhaps if your landlord doesn’t allow dogs or cats, you can just get a rat or two and say they came on their own.
Don’t ask me why, but when I saw the picture of the guy with the rat seemingly attached to his neck, I heard him saying (in Adrian Monk’s voice, of course), “It’s a blessing and a curse.” I either need more sleep or more coffee.
Ecch. Its bad enough that city dwellers want to keep chickens in their backyards, but gamy-tasting wild chickens running loose in your neighborhood would be worse. Think of the noise and pollution.
Perhaps the Gambian rats can help out, though. One of the unfortunate consequences of the age of wooden ocean going ships is that they sometimes wrecked and released their stowaway rats onto an island where the birds had no predators. Because the birds nested on the ground, the rats easily ate the eggs, which decimated the population of birds. Maybe the Gambian rats can prevent the slow spread of the “Key West Gypsy Chicken.”
In many states of the US, Mute swans compete for the same habitat as Trumpeter swans, which are native to North America. There is some concern that the Mute swan is reducing the population of Trumpeter swans, much as Gray squirrels from North America are out-competing the native Red squirrels of Britain.
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