Monday, September 19, 2005

Police rescue man from home filled with more than 200 rats

By Jill Burcum

Minneapolis Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS | The call to the police came in at 1 a.m. Thursday and sounded like a supermarket tabloid headline.

A man in the small Iron Range town of Gilbert, Minn., was being eaten alive in his home by rats, the caller said.

Skepticism turned to disbelief when they responded. More than 200 black rats — a colony originating from one pregnant pet-store type of rat that the mentally disabled man had taken in — had overrun the small house.

"In this occupation, you see a lot of things. Nothing really surprises us," said Police Chief Mark Skelton. "You can never say that you've seen it all, because you haven't."

The 47-year-old man, who had been nibbled on a few times but seemed otherwise fine, was taken to a "safe house," Skelton said.

The man lived alone, he said.

The St. Louis County health department and a pest control company were also called in; rats can sometimes spread diseases to humans.

Officers have spent time calming neighbors, telling them that the type of rat — a black rat, whose scientific name is rattus rattus — doesn't stray far from its home.

According to the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology website, female black rats can produce up to five litters per year and the rats are able to reproduce several months after birth.

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