People have complained after starting to see the rodents in broad daylight across the city including the railway station, High Street and Cathedral Close.
One resident asked whether “Winchester is the new Hamelin pre-the Pied Piper.”
The problem is so bad on the railway embankment in Station Road that signs have been put up in the last 24 hours, urging pedestrians to call Winchester City Council to “complain about environmental health.”
One man from Winchester, aged 58, who asked not to be named, said: “There are loads and loads and loads of rats, scurrying out from the railing on the railway embankment. The oak trees along the embankment, have loads of acorns, which presumably they are ferreting away to feed the existing family before producing a few dozen more.
“I think for some people it is very unpleasant to see these rats, but they are in a thriving environment with plenty of food. If they keep on feeding and spreading they will make larger colonies and continue to grow. It’s quite concerning.”
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He added: “I rang Winchester City Council who said they are working with Network Rail to address the issues, but they have been made aware of this situation.”
Multiple rats trap boxes have been placed along the fences of the railway embankment and in another problem spot, Colebrook Street.
Complaints have also been made about the city centre with most sightings in Colebrook Street, near the cathedral.
Amelia Riviere, High Sheriff of Hampshire, said: “On Saturday when I walked round the cathedral at the East End, I saw four rats in the morning so in the daylight and on my way back through I saw another two.
“Either there is a rat outpacing me or Winchester is the new Hamelin pre-the Pied Piper.”
She added that she had also seen them in the High Street: “Lots of people are horrified by rats and that’s understandable because they bring diseases and suggest a level of poverty and I think that it’s not right for public health reasons. But also Winchester is such a tourist destination now and it must be awful for the people who live near here.”
Asked what the Winchester City Council should do, Ms Riviere said: “Sort it, they need to sort it. I mean, it’s kind of what we pay for, have the bins removed and make sure that there isn’t any vermin.”
The Chronicle has asked Network Rail, Winchester Cathedral and the city council for comment.
Rats are always present but they have been increasing in recent years with fewer cold winters that depletes their food supply and kills them in large numbers.
Rats pose significant health risk to humans as the pests can carry diseases, contaminate food and set off allergies. These diseases can spread to people directly, by contact with rodents faces or urine. Rats can also carry ticks and fleas that can also contribute to the spreading of diseases.
Many diseases do not show any apparent illness in rats, so you cannot tell if a rat is carrying diseases by just looking at it.