Send us your pictures, video, news and views by texting DURHAM TIMES to 80360 or email us
Was this giant rat an escaped pet?
There has been much recent news coverage of the giant rat killed in Consett last week.
The first Durham Wildlife Trust heard of the incident was a call from a national newspaper to ask if someone could talk to them about giant rats.
We get this sort of thing all the time; no one was surprised.
More surprising was the photograph e-mailed over by the journalist – it really was a very big rat. But which rat?
As readers of last week’s column will know, the rat we see in the UK is the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus).
These animals can get reasonably big, perhaps 20 inches from nose to tip of tail and 350 g in weight (12 oz). Not something you would want in the kitchen, but not like the rat pictured in Consett.
What is perhaps more worrying is that the Consett rat does not appear to be alone.
A quick internet search will show you it has (sorry, had) relatives in Bradford, where a 30 inch long animal was shot in 2010 Unfortunately, as in Consett case, there is no body to examine, only pictures, making a definitive identification impossible, but the rats in each case seem very similar.
Are they freakishly big brown rats? I don’t think so; the rats pictured appear to have a much bigger build.
Are they coypu, giant rodents once of Norfolk broads fame?
No, just compare pictures, they are not coypu.
My guess is Cricetomys gambianus – up to three feet long and 1.4 kg (3.1 lbs) and available from a pet shop near you.
An escaped pet is the logical but more mundane answer.