Don't feed the river rats

SCORES of rats are scurrying through Cheddar because residents are leaving too much food for birds in their gardens

SCORES of rats are scurrying through Cheddar because residents are leaving too much food for birds in their gardens.Rats are emerging from a narrow river which flows through the village to gather food left on bird tables and in gardens.Worried villagers have spotted the vermin and reported the sightings to Sedgemoor District Council.But officers say they are facing an uphill struggle because residents are leaving so much food out for birds.One thoughtful bird lover even left food on a small island in the middle of the river, which was quickly consumed by the rats. The river runs from the gorge, through Redcliffe Street and into Church Street.Environment officers also say increasing numbers of tourists dropping litter and food is also contributing to the problem.A new system of 'box traps' is being tried out along the river banks to try to catch the rats.The river itself has also been cleaned in an effort to drive the vermin off and poison is being laid underneath bins.But officers also say the rats could be mistaken for water voles. The voles are a protected species and pest control officers have to be careful not to kill them off.Sedgemoor's environmental protection manager Frank Ball said: "We are aware of the problem and to be honest we have been expecting it for a while due to people feeding the birds to excess."We have told residents they should not be feeding the birds as much as they are but we are struggling to get people to listen. We have carried out a full investigation and pest control officers have been up and down the river banks."I don't think the problem is quite as bad as people think but we are taking plenty of measures to stop it.

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