Cannibal rats taking over during coronavirus pandemic, experts say

Trash is not littering the streets like it used to. People are staying at home. Pizza rat has no pizza to drag back home.

Now rats are emerging in normally bustling, now-quiet cities, looking for any scrap of food trying to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rats that have established colonies on private property, away from a city, are doing well because they’re able to eat as normal. Nothing has changed for them, Bobby Corrigan, an urban rodentologist, told NBC News.

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But ones that live in areas like New York City have no trash from normally crowded restaurants to feed on.

So the rodents’ behaviors are becoming more extreme -- some resorting to cannibalism and infanticide.

Corrigan likens it to when conquering armies move in, but this time it’s on an animal’s level.

“A new ‘army’ of rats come in, and whichever army has the strongest rats is going to conquer that area," Corrigan told NBC News.

When food resources dry up, the colony will move, challenging others for survival.

“They’re mammals just like you and I, and so when you’re really, really hungry, you’re not going to act the same -- you’re going to act very bad, usually. So these rats are fighting with one another, now the adults are killing the young in the nest and cannibalizing the pups,” Corrigan explained.

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Not only should people be worried about seeing more rats on the streets, the rats could also be trying to encroach on new areas, spreading bacteria and disease to homes, NJ.com reported.

Restaurants that left stockpiles of food will need to keep an eye on ingredients that are not stored or sealed properly. Changlu Wang, an entomology specialist at Rutgers, told NJ.com that rats will sniff out what has been left behind in businesses, start eating it then start reproducing. They only need a half-inch opening to get into an area.

Wang also warned that businesses that have shut down may have canceled their normal pest control treatments, NJ.com reported.

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So what should you do if you see a rat in your home? Corrigan said don’t try to get rid of it yourself. Call professionals, NJ.com reported.

Pest control is an essential service, National Geographic reported.

“People think of pest control as a luxury or pests being just a nuisance, but there are many pests that are a threat to public health, to our food supply [and] to our properties,” Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist for the National Pest Management Association, told National Geographic.

Also, make sure holes and gaps are blocked correctly and that trash is properly secured.