They are so large that local Florida residents call them cat-sized rats, weighing nine pounds, and exotic species coordinator Scott Hardin is worried about the infestation.
Officials are worried that the cat-sized pushed rats are breeding faster in the Florida keys despite efforts to eradicate them. The hungry species could wipe out crops and upset the delicate ecological balance in the region.
“We thought we had them whipped as of 2009…. In the early part of 2011, a resident e-mailed me and said he saw one of the rats. We were skeptical but went back and talked to people and [saw] there were rats that we missed,” Scott Hardin, the exotic species coordinator for Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said in a public statement.
Hardin believes that there are less than two dozen giant rats roaming Grassy Key where they were trapped during multiple efforts last year. The Wildlife Conservation Commission will set out once again this July in an attempt to trap the Gambian giant pouched rats.
“I would not imagine there’s more than another couple of dozen at most. We’ve caught them all within a half-mile of each other… We think they have not moved far but they clearly reproduced,” Hardin stated.
MSNBC also reports that the cat-sized rats were introduced to the island by a local rat breeder more than a decade ago. The rats have moved into the wild where they are now breeding and wreaking havoc on the ecosystem.