THIS monster rat caught in Poole is proof the rodents are loving life in Dorset.

At almost 19 inches long the specimen, Rattus norvegicus, is the largest that professional pest controller Terry Walker has caught in his career.

Terry, who has more than 20 years’ experience as a rat-catcher, caught it close to a mixed residential and commercial estate in Poole. A second rat, another giant measuring around 16 inches long, was snared by Terry at a food establishment near Poole High Street around the same time.

“The one I am holding up, you would struggle to find a pest controller who has found a bigger one than that,” said Terry.

“I’m on the professional forums and most of us would agree, that is a big one for the whole of the UK.

“It is the biggest I have ever caught.”

Terry, managing director of Poole-based TP Pest Control Services, believes rats have increased in size locally in recent years. He explained: “This comes down to a lot of things including refuge at the back of buildings, people feeding birds, foxes, badgers.

“Keeping chickens is also a definite contributing factor - basically the rats will go onto the bird tables, into the chicken coops and take their feed.

“My contracts for business premises are growing on a daily basis. We’re finding that more and more people are having more and more issues.”

Earlier this week, the Echo reported how rats had infested a busy part of Bournemouth town centre occupied by restaurants, bars and shops. The problem emerged in the Post Office Road area, with the council blaming large scale development work at the nearby Bristol and West building as a contributory factor.

Meanwhile, in Poole, the council says it doesn’t have a substantive issue with rats, and that it hasn’t seen an increase in numbers in recent years.

A Borough of Poole spokesman explained: “In terms of advice, we must all store waste properly in bins with lids. If residents feed birds please only put out as much as birds will eat during the day. Clear up food that is spilled or uneaten, birds won’t eat it if it goes mouldy and uneaten food may attract rodents.”