DavidHowdon's picture

Brave vermin.

Observed: 10th April 2010 By: DavidHowdon
Amateur Entomologists' SocietyLondon Natural History SocietySelborne Society
DavidHowdon’s reputation in MammalsDavidHowdon’s reputation in MammalsDavidHowdon’s reputation in Mammals
0102 Brown Rat D 03
0102 Brown Rat D 04
0102 Brown Rat D 05

A rat that seemed remarkably unconcerned about me being on the path near it.

Species interactions

No interactions present.


georgia's picture


Great picture of a rat, he/ she looks real confident!

miked's picture

I suspect their eyesight is

I suspect their eyesight is not particularly good, I've stood completely still and quiet and had them walk right up to me on occasions.

wek6's picture

Brown Rat

Lovely pictures.Eyesight is their poorest sense.I used to have one rat in the garden that fed on the birdtable, even though I was just feet away from her.They are often bolder and seen in daytime more when they are feeding their young.

anonymous spotter's picture


Very cute!
"Plague? Me? No, mate, never!"

DavidHowdon's picture


Well it was Black Rats that spread the plague so this guy is probably innocent.

the naturalist man's picture

You Dirty Rat!

Traditionally the Black Death was blamed on the black rat, and maybe it was, but only because it was the rat most likely to have hitched aboard ships from the Middle East in Medieval times.

Both black and brown rats are now thought to carry the fleas which transmit bubonic plague.

All rats have long been considered dirty and something to be avoided or better still killed. The symbol of medicine is two snakes twining round a pole, why snakes? because they hunted rats and therefore helped doctors prevent disease.

Rightly or wrongly rats are blamed for:

Bubonic plague
Sodoku (rat-bite fever)
Leptospirosis (Weil's disease)
Hanta virus
Lassa fever

And in the immortal words of Basil Faulty about Manuel's pet, Basil the rat; "cuddle this, you'd not play the guitar again!"

Final thought for the day: it is often said you are never more than 20ft from a rat - true or not it makes you think "why?". The answer is simple, as a society we are wasteful, if we did not throw so much food away the rats would have much less to eat.

Graham Banwell

Visit the iSpot Yorkshire forum for information on events, issues and news relating to 'God's own country'

anonymous spotter's picture


They are great opportunists, and as pointed out above, our lifestyle helps them a lot. All the new houses in our street have decked areas - great cover for them.
Not only rats (whichever species) carry plague, of course. Many other rodents and small mammals can do so.
Leptospirosis is the probably the most significant risk - and any wildlife enthusiast who goes near ponds or other watercourses needs to be aware of the symptoms.

the naturalist man's picture

Dirty water

As Roger says if you go pond or stream dipping you do need to be aware of the possibility of catching leptospirosis. More information can be found at:



Having read these sites you are probably so scared you're determined never to go near another stream or pond! However, there are a few simple precautions you can take to reduce the risk of contamination to almost 0.

Wear gloves, at least cover any open cuts or scrapes with a waterproof plaster. The bacteria must enter the body through a cut, mouth, nostrils etc.

Wash your hands thoroughly before eating, drinking or putting them near your mouth.

Avoid swimming in a pond or river.

Do not drink from a pond or stream.

Wear gloves, wash hands, two simple ways of avoiding leptospirosis and the many other diseases carried in water.

The older members of this forum may be thinking "but I used to dip and swim etc. in ponds and it never affected me". Two answers to that.

1. You may have been infected and recovered, remember that really nasty flu you had as a child? Also some people show no symptoms at all.

2. We were used to messing around in water, soil etc. and the nearest we got to an antibacterial hand wash was a nightly scrub with carbolic. Therefore, we built up natural immunities to many bacteria. Just look in your cupboard at the anti-bacterial this, that and the other in there (generalising of course). There is growing evidence that by sanitising our lives we are reducing our natural immunity.

Finally, pond dipping is one of the most exciting things anyone can do in the countryside; nothing can beat the awe on a child's face when you pull out a giant water scorpion or dragonfly larvae. Don't let fear of a relatively rare disease prevent you experiencing the wonders that await in a pond.

To put things in perspective, I've been splashing around in water for over 40 years; for the last twenty years I've been pond and stream dipping professionally as a field studies tutor and I have never had it. I know because every time I get a flu bug my doctor insists on examining me for leptospirosis and I always get the all clear.

Graham Banwell

Visit the iSpot Yorkshire forum for information on events, issues and news relating to 'God's own country'