Rats are a major problem in Marseille – estimates put the Mediterranean city’s rat population at somewhere between 1.2 million and 1.6 million, or about one-and-a-half to two times its human population.
(Although that’s nothing compared to Paris, which is believed to have around 6 million rats – roughly double the human population.)
According to regional newspaper La Provence, Marseille authorities are consulting a ferret breeder from the Gers as a complimentary and chemical-free friendly trial alongside more routinely used pest control options.
“We carry out many outdoor rat control operations, but it is complex because the use of boxes installed in parks and gardens, for example, is very much regulated by European directives,” one official told the paper.
Ferrets are used to flush out rats in a controlled area, and drive them into nets, where they are captured, and euthanized. The operation is repeated 48 hours later.
The breeder working with Marseille authorities believes that his ferrets, working in groups of two or three at a time, can help trap “at least 100 rats per week”.
The technique has already been used to control rat numbers in Toulouse, Vincennes and Limoges. They have also been used to control pests in some prisons.
In Marseille, about fifteen “particularly infested” sites have already been listed for the trial, which is due to begin in November, “especially near schools”, according to La Provence.