Parents have been urged to keep their children away from a picturesque duck pond overrun by vicious rats.
The warning came after a duck was badly injured in a feeding frenzy for bread in Moor Park, Preston, as children as young as one looked on in horror.
Shocked dad Ian MacLeod, who went to feed the ducks with wife Helen and son Abel, said one bird was “ambushed” by a pack of rats and almost eaten alive.
Now ward councillor Terry Cartwright, whose family have also witnessed the “frightening” rat infestation at the pond, has demanded action by the authority.
“It’s a disgrace,” he stormed. “It’s not safe there, even for adults, never mind kids. I would advise people not to go there to feed the ducks. It’s dangerous.
“My wife took our granddaughter the other day and all of a sudden a big rat appeared right in front of them.”
Ian, who lives in the Brookfield area of the city, was stunned after his toddler son witnessed the rats attacking the duck at the weekend.
He took pictures of the rats and the injured bird and said later: “I saw what I thought were ducklings, so I took Abel to see them. To my surprise it was a swarm of rats, fully grown, big rats.”
“I dropped the bag of bread and then turned to see a poor duck had been ambushed and was being eaten alive by these rats. It was awful to see and not something a child should be seeing. The rats were coming and going and certainly were not afraid of being seen. They were a maximum of a foot away from where we were stood with Abel.
“Considering the park is full of children and young families each day and hosts events like last week’s Race For Life, this seems dangerous and a serious cause for concern.
“One bite from one of these rodents could cause a child or an adult serious and dangerous health problems.”
Coun Cartwright insisted he had raised the alarm over the rat menace a year ago. “But it seems nothing was done about it. It’s much worse now than it was 12 months ago.”
Council chiefs say they are trying hard to cull the rat population in the area of the pond, but say people throwing food for the ducks is not helping.
Coun Robert Boswell, cabinet member for community and environment, said: We’ve put down enough bait and rat poison there to sink a battleship, but the rats aren’t stupid.
“Why would they eat the bait when they can tuck into pizza, rice, chicken carcasses and bread?
“We want people to tell us, to report to us when they see people throwing food away like this.
“We are putting up new, larger signs asking people not to feed the birds as it encourages rats. Hopefully people will get the message and there will be less food for the rats, so they take the bait and poison that’s put out for them.”