1.2 miles of shops and eateries, this busy road in the City of Westminster in the west end of London is Europe’s busiest shopping street. Running from Marble Arch to Tottenham Court Road, there are 300 shops and thousands of people who walked the pavements daily.
All this human activity in spot leads to many things, one of which is pests. From pigeons who have adapted to make the tall buildings their homes to the opportunistic brown rat, without Gary Coates and his team at West London Pest Control, this busy thoroughfare would look very different.
There is no doubt that the biggest issue in terms of pest management on Oxford Street is the brown rat. And this is why Gary and the team featured in the BBC programme ‘Oxford Street’.
This series provided a fascinating insight not only into Gary’s work but how emergency services and the local council respond in keeping this busy street safe.
Pest control is part of a wider response to keeping Oxford Street flowing. Rats, for example, are attracted to the rubbish that humans inevitably create. This means the local street cleaners need to keep on top of emptying public bins and the like, whilst businesses too need to play their part in ensuring tidy premises.
But where there is rubbish and food waste, there are rats. It is Gary’s job, along with his team, to monitor and control the rat population. This means a constant state of vigilance, as well as action to reduce the health hazards that rats pose to the public.
And this is where ‘rat kebabs’ come in. A system of loading boxes with poison-laced kebabs that attract the rats. But rather than meat, these ‘kebabs’ are made from blocks, full of wheat and other attractive foodstuffs that smell too tempting for the rat. On nibbling a small amount of the rat kebab, the rat doesn’t have long to live.
The poison is strong so that death is quick, with all these tools and substances placed out of view of the Londoner and the tourist.
No Dead Bodies
But if it was just a case of laying poison, we would all do it. It needs to be done so safely and this is why West London Pest Control uses delayed-action poison. As Gary points out “rats like you and me when they don’t feel well will return to the bed or nest and that is where they will die”. It is rare, he goes on, to see a dead rat, a sight that Oxford Street wants to avoid.
Never Ending Battle
It is a story that is unlikely to ever have an ending, the battle to control the brown rat population on Oxford Street will be a soap opera that runs and runs. The street has a number of listed buildings and it is the design of the buildings that also favours the rat. From plenty of sewers and drains to properties connected underground and across roofs, the rat has plenty of opportunities to move undetected from one location to another.
But at least with Gary and the team hot on the case, our enjoyment of Oxford Street, its hustle and bustle, will not be undermined by the sight of scurrying rats everywhere.