Residents living near rivers could be faced with an influx of rats after the recent floods, according to a pest control company.
The wet weather is having a huge impact on farm animals and wildlife, forcing them to seek shelter on higher ground above the water line.
Pest controllers are warning people they may encounter some unwanted guests who have been forced out of their underground burrows or flooded drains.
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Chris Davis of Cleankill Environmental Services, which has an office in Seaford, said: “The rats are simply trying to find dry places to live.
“Rats like water and are good swimmers but they can’t tolerate being submerged for long periods and can drown.
“Their usual food sources may have been washed away, so they will be searching for things to eat too.”
Drain covers that have been pushed off by flood water can allow rats to escape from external drains easily.
Cleankill Environmental Services staff find pipework under houses, damaged during construction work, often allows rats to enter homes.
Mr Davis added: “Rats are generally nocturnal but the flooding will have disrupted their normal patterns.
“As a result they will probably be sleep-deprived, exhausted, very nervous and hungry – they will be more scared of you than you are of them.
“Rats carry lots of diseases so it’s best to keep clear of them and dispose of or disinfect anything they have come in contact with.”
The trend is for rodents to get into wall cavities and up into the loft where there is usually lots of nesting material.
Householders are advised not to tackle the rats themselves as they can become aggressive if they are cornered – especially in unfamiliar environments.
Mr Davis said disrupted rubbish collections in flooded areas will not help with infestations, but the company advises people to do their best to keep food in sealed containers and put their rubbish in collection bins.
He said: “One of our clients has recently seen rats enter a store room for the first time but, fortunately, the problem has been caught early.
“It’s really a case of businesses being extra vigilant and making sure any damp bait is replaced otherwise it will be ineffective and pest problems could quickly worsen.”