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Dozens of pet rats ditched at Wetlands Park in east Las Vegas

Updated November 8, 2018 - 7:56 pm

Scrambled eggs, canned mackerel and cheese slices were key to removing recent uninvited guests at Clark County Wetlands Park.

Volunteers used the food to lure some 35 pet rats back into captivity after an unknown owner dumped bins of the animals at the east Las Vegas park twice in the past two weeks.

The abandonment led county officials to issue a warning: Not only is dumping your pets cruel and illegal, it can also harm the ecosystem.

“Sometimes people think they are doing a good thing for the animals they no longer want to take care of, but it causes all kind of problems,” said Ben Jurand, the park’s program supervisor. “They could introduce diseases. They don’t know how to forage for their own food, so they could starve to death. And they could be predated upon by birds of prey and other predators in the park.”

The first dumping occurred on Halloween. Jurand said a staff member spotted an overturned gray bin next to the park’s nature center. Nearly 30 brown-and-white rats were milling about nearby.

A smaller bin with far fewer rodents was found Wednesday. Both times, members of the private “Rat Mischief!” Facebook group helped collect the animals.

Seventeen of the rats are now in the care of group member Heather Johnson, who is treating them for ear mites and intestinal infection. She said it was important to get them out of park as soon as possible.

“They would overpopulate the wetlands,” she said. “They can give birth every 22 days.”

Jurand said the county does not know who dumped the rats in the park, but Johnson said she and her friends are on the case. She believes both containers of rats came from the same place, based on similar patterns and markings the rodents share.

“We’re thinking it was a breeder here in town that was nearby,” she said. “We’ve come down to two people that we think these rats might have belonged to based off of pictures posted on Facebook.”

No matter if the mystery is solved, Jurand said it is important for pet owners to relinquish unwanted animals to shelters like The Animal Foundation.

“It’s difficult for animals to adapt to an ecosystem they are not familiar with,” he said.

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

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