Rats multiplying just yards from a children's playground
RATS are breeding at a dangerous rate just yards from a popular playground, according to exterminators.
Pest controller Sam Wakeman, 25, said he was shocked to see Pittville Park "crawling" with rodents.
He was taking his 10-month-old son Harvey for a stroll when he noticed a handful of brown Norway rats near a shrub next to the play area.
"The number of rats down there is absolutely horrific," he said. "If you go down to the swing area, there are rats running around the shrubs.
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"If people are seeing them during the day it proves their numbers are so great, and they're so confident, that there's a serious problem.
"I'm not happy to let Harvey play there until the problem is sorted out.
"If he caught Weil's disease it could kill him."
The infection, thought to kill two or three people a year in Britain, is caught through contact with infected animal urine, mainly from rodents, cattle or pigs, generally in contaminated water.
Cheltenham Borough Council, which maintains the park, says it will be taking action to deal with the problem.
Mr Wakeman, who lives in Prestbury and works as a technician for AB Complete Pest Control, said the numbers of rats increased closer to the lake.
"We went up to feed the ducks around the lake and we saw about half a dozen of them, some juveniles and some adults, which means they are breeding.
"They are just going to keep multiplying.
"Just in case it was a one-off, I went down the next day with my Jack Russell and it was identical.
"They must have quite a network within the park and they weren't really spooked when you came close.
"They are confident. I was very shocked."
Andy Beddoes, director of AB Complete Pest Control, said the situation might have got out of hand because no one had reported sightings to the borough council.
"The council are quite capable of keeping things under control, but if no one reports it then they don't know," he said.
"Because there's water around there, I'm 99 per cent sure they will be carrying Weil's disease and there's also a good chance of E.coli being there. It's a top priority."
Yvonne Hope, the borough's public and environmental health manager, said: ''We have a number of permanent bait points in the park, but because of the amount of food that is fed to the ducks and birds, controlling the rat population in this area is a challenge.
"We have asked for the shrubbery to be cleared to enable us to get to the stations to bait and we will make sure that this does happen. We will also look into the possibility of more frequent baiting."