Rat infestion at Burgess Park blamed on visitors feeding birds

Katherine Johnston (01 October, 2018) Environment

Do not feed bread, rice or pasta to birds

25581Canada Geese on Burgess Park lake enjoy the taste of lettuce with Friends of Burgess Park member Tom Rogers

Park-goers have been left horrified by a rat infestation at Burgess Park lake – which the council blames on ‘well-meaning’ bird feeders.

One reader wrote to the News expressing his disgust at the worsening problem, seen first-hand on a Sunday walk.

“We were horrified by the number of rats we saw running out of and into the water,” he said, claiming anglers blamed council pest control budget cuts, and were worried about health dangers. Rat urine is known to carry the waterborne infection Leptospirosis, more commonly known as Weil’s disease.

In a statement to the News, community group Friends of Burgess Park told the News its members were aware of the issue – and concerned about the amount of food left in the water for rats to feed on.

A spokesperson said: “Rats are a problem in Burgess Park especially around the lake.

“Friends of Burgess Park are concerned about the amount of food, like bread, that is put out for the water fowl, which will also feed the rats as well.

“If people want to feed the birds try chopped up lettuce or peas.

“Bread (or rice and pasta) is not good for the birds or the lake water quality.”

Southwark Council’s pest control budget has not been cut compared to last year, with the local authority similarly claiming the infestation is more likely to have been caused by ‘well-meaning people’.

Cllr Victoria Mills, Cabinet Member for Finance, Performance and Brexit, said: “We have been actively trying to reduce the number of rats in Burgess Park for some months now and although we have noted a small drop in numbers, our efforts are being hampered by well-meaning people who throw food into the duck pond for the birds.

“We have posted signs asking people not to do this, as it is known to attract rats and hope that they will help us to resolve the problem.”

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