Rats show signs of returning to roam in force through Hillsborough Forest Park, according to one daily visitor, who fears a fresh outbreak of the ‘plague’ of 2011.
Mervyn Robb says more of the vermin have been in evidence in recent weeks.
Left unchecked, he warned, their numbers would likely drive the public out of the park.
“As a daily walker in Hillsborough Forest and around the lake,” he said, “I remember well the plague of rats a couple of years ago which made the local press.
“The authorities eventually took action and the infestation was very successfully eliminated.
“This involved widespread signage about not feeding the ducks and swans.
“In recent weeks I have noticed an upsurge in large rats again, particularly on the southern side of the lake. I think if the public is not to desert the park, effective and prompt action will have to be taken again, no doubt as the spring breeding season takes off.”
It was in August/September 2011 that a pest-control contractor was drafted in amid reports that Hillsborough Forest Park was being overrun with vermin.
Lagan Valley MLAs Edwin Poots and Paul Givan and then Councillor Paul Stewart were among those to meet with the Forest Service and there followed appeals to the public to stop feeding the waterfowl.
Forest Service advised that feeding bread to the ducks or swans was of no nutritional benefit and studies of dead birds had indicated severe levels of malnutrition.
Food left for wildfowl increased the risk of a rodent problem, it said, by providing a readily available food source.
The Ulster Star contacted the Forest Service about fresh reports of rats at Hillsborough Forest Park but at time of going to press no response had been forthcoming.