After a cold winter, the common brown rats with a name dubiously tied to Norway (Rattus norvegicus, or the Norwegian rat) are making a seasonal reappearance around the country. It’s almost become a rite of spring, however unwelcome.
“Where folks are living, you’ll probably find the brown rats,” Anne Karin Hufthammer at the University of Bergen told news bureau NTB last week. “They’re very adaptable, tolerate the cold and now they getting active again. They spread quickly because they breed quickly and get lots of offspring.”
Officials in Oslo have an ongoing campaign to battle rats, which especially thrive on the garbage and remnants of take-away food that often litters the city’s streets and sidewalks. Littering remains a big problem in Oslo and other cities, despite efforts to get Norwegians to use garbage cans, and for city officials to empty them.
Norwegians can thank a British doctor, John Berkenhout, for tying their country to the brown rat’s name, “probably because he thought they came to England from Norway,” Hufthammer told NTB, noting that they actually originated in Asia. “There are various theories behind why the Asian rat became the ‘Norwegian rat’.” She said it actually didn’t arrive in Norway until the 1700s. The first rats in Norway were the black rats (Rattus rattus) that came during the early Middle Ages.
The rats’ biggest enemy in Norway now is currently the national public health institute (Nasjonalt folkehelseinstitutt), which offers advice “on everything from how to secure your buildings against rats to what you should do if you find rat droppings in the kitchen cupbord,” Arnulf Soleng, senior researcher for pest control, told NTB. They’re entering a busy season now, as are local pest control firms.