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King rat: Two-and-a-half-foot 'ratzilla' shot on estate as super-sized rodents are found in UK

 

 

By Chris Brooke

Last updated at 7:01 PM on 19th August 2010

 

 

 

They are big, terrifying and stalk the back alleys at night.

Forget the muggers and hoodies, it’s a gang of giant rats that are sending residents of a housing estate into a state of mild panic.

One of the 30-inch long ‘super rats’ was recently caught and killed, and the brave man who did the job said he saw four others of the same size scuttle away to safety.

 

article-0-0AD7B81A000005DC-534_468x286.jpg Infested: The Ravenscliffe estate, where residents have been plagued by giant rats, and where Brandon Goddard shot a two-and-a-half-foot specimen

 

A photograph of the gruesome ‘ratzilla’, published in a newspaper, has had a predictably terrifying effect on men, women and children living on the Ravenscliffe estate in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

The country’s rat population is known to be booming, but the sight of a rodent bigger than a cat is enough to frighten even the most hardened pest controller.

Brandon Goddard, 31, was carrying his air rifle and was out with friends looking for rodents to shoot for fun when the five monsters suddenly appeared.

He said: ’The first went right past, but we got the second one, then three more got away. I’ve seen thousands of rats during the course of my work and go shooting a couple of times a week. But I’ve never seen any as big as this. The one I shot was absolutely terrifying. I was shaking. Goodness knows where the others went. I’m glad I don’t live there.’

 

The creature's corpse was dumped and is believed to have been eaten by a fox.

 

article-0-0282ECBB000004B0-899_468x362.jpg Super-sized species: Rats in Indonesia and South America can grow up to three feet long (above), and witnesses say the rats in Bradford are just as big

 

SO WHERE COULD THE BRADFORD 'SUPER RAT' HAVE COME FROM?

 

There are several species of rat classed as 'giants' - most of them from South America and Indonesia.

The coypu - a large rodent which grew up to 2ft long and weighed 20lbs - is found in Europe, North America, Asia and Africa. It is similar to a beaver and lives in water and in burrows on river banks.

 

It was believed to have been made extinct in the UK in 1989 after it became a pest and caused damage to river banks and irrigation systems.

Several species of giant rat have been discovered recently in remote jungle areas on Papua New Guinea.

 

The largest, known as woolly rats, can reach 3ft long.

In South America, there are two types of giant rat from the Kunisia genus. They grow to more than 1.5ft and feed on insects and other mammals.

 

 

 

Whatever the precise species of these spine-chilling creatures, residents have become used to seeing large rodents on the streets.

Local resident Florence Howell, 74, told how she mistook a rat for her neighbour’s cat before realising what the creature really was. ‘It was horrible, I ran inside and closed the door. I didn’t want it getting into the house. It was just over the road when I caught sight of it, in front of that boarded up house and I think it went into the bushes there.

‘It must be all this digging involved in the new houses that started this, some of those houses have been derelict for eight years and when they started excavating them, the rats moved out.’

Full-time mother Tracey Tompkins, 36, recalled her close encounter with a huge rat three weeks ago. ‘Two rats came out from the side of our house and walked very slowly across the road into the undergrowth during the afternoon.

‘They were both about the size of cats and were in no hurry to get across and went their separate ways.

‘I think they are horrible things and make me want to leave this area after hearing these stories. Rats are disgusting, they really frighten me - the large ones are like something out of a film.’

Her mother Kath Tompkins, 60, added: ’It makes you feel sick after hearing about these large ones, if that got into my house I would just leave. I don’t think I would come back, I mean we daren’t leave the door open in case of mice - what if a huge rat got in?'

‘I can’t stand rats anyway, their tails are the worst part - I am frightened to death of them.’

Yesterday experts who have seen the picture believe the animal is more likely to be a South American rodent called a coypu rather than some kind of overfed monstrous street rat.

The coypu or ‘swamp beaver’ is related to the porcupine and burrows in the banks of streams, feeding on plants. It has been farmed in many parts of the world for its long soft coat. But in East Anglia the farmed animals escaped and caused damage in the countryside, forcing the authorities to cull them in the 1980s.

Coypus are often referred to as ‘giant rats’ and both an RSPCA spokesman and an official from the Mammal Society said the animal could be a coypu.

Earlier this month a report from Yorkshire Water revealed Bradford was facing an explosion in its rat population. But the city council was yesterday playing down the scare.

Dennis Shipway, the council’s Pest Control Manager, said: ‘We have not received any reports of larger than normal rats or any increased rat activity in Ravenscliffe. We visited the area today and found no evidence of large rats. We would urge members of the public to call us to report any problems and we will investigate them.’

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