Rats on the rise as they adapt to life under Covid-19

Covid-19 has changed human behaviour this year, but it's also affecting rat behaviour.

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Tim Wilson discovered Covid-19 is also affecting the behaviour of the rodents. Source: Seven Sharp

Rural areas are being swarmed by unprecedented numbers of rats, with previously unseen numbers of rodents filling New Zealand's native bush and threatening native birds.

Meanwhile in the city, urban rats are also adapting to life under Covid-19.

Restaurants have shuttered, cutting off food sources for the rodents and forcing them to change their plan of attack.

Rat catcher Owen Stobart is one of those who's noticed the change in rat behaviour.

"Rats need a food source and a water source and sometimes in these situations, with lockdowns, the food source they might be relying on either gets taken away or changed," he told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp. 

"And suddenly they're out looking for a new food source or a new water source."

That food source could be something as simple as a fruit tree outside your house, before quickly escalating to bigger problems.

"The first thing a rat's going to do when it finds some nice macadamia nuts [outside] is go, 'Wow, look at that house, that looks nice and warm, I might just move in.'"

He recommends making sure there's a one-metre gap between your roof and any trees nearby.

"Once a rat or a mouse is on your roof line, they can get inside your structure."

When it comes to safeguarding your home, Stobart has what he calls the "ratty rule of thumb".

"If you can put your thumb in a spot, then any sized rat - the size of a cat! - can get in that gap."

While they might be small, Stobart warns against cornering and confronting rats, adding: "I wouldn't recommend that."