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Rats are omnivorous, which means they will eat almost anything. They feed on a wide range of plants, seeds, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and their eggs, and will even attack animals larger than themselves. Rats are dangerous to humans too. They carry diseases such as typhoid, Q fever and the plague.

The first rats arrived in Antigua on board European ships about 400 years ago. Since then, they have spread everywhere, even reaching the offshore islands (see Hidden Treasures). They stow away on the tourist boats that sail around the islands, then swim ashore when these boat anchor close enough to a deserted beach. The first arrivals can live on scraps left behind by the visitors, but as they multiply, they begin destroying native plants, eating birds' eggs and attacking other animals.

 

Rats often strip the bark from young trees

Egg of a West Indian whistling duck, with tell-tale rat tooth marks
 

The gentle Antiguan racer is no match for the aggressive black rat. In 1995, over half of the surviving snakes found on Great Bird Island (see The Last Resort) had marks and scars caused by rat bites. The invading rats were not only attacking snakes, but also eating lizards (the racer's main food supply) and destroying the eggs of ground-nesting birds, including the rare West Indian whistling duck. A plague of rats is a serious health hazard too. For the sake of the snakes, lizards, nesting birds and human visitors, the rats had to go (see Removal Service).

Alien Invasion
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