A COUNTRY park’s visitor facilities have been closed to the public after they were invaded by rats.
Environmental officials decided to close parts of Palacerigg Country Park in Cumbernauld, Lanarkshire, due to the infestation.
Alarmed staff at the facility were said to have spotted dozens of large rats and it is feared two giant rabbits who died had been attacked by the rodents.
The Children’s Farm, Visitor Centre and cafeteria at the park will remain closed while the infestation is dealt with.
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Pest control specialists have been called in and traps have been set around the site to exterminate the rats.
North Lanarkshire Council, which runs the park, has said there is no evidence the rats have made it into catering areas but have closed them as a precaution.
Ken Forbes, head of environmental assets at North Lanarkshire Council, said: “We are very disappointed at havin to take this action but public health and animal safety must come first.
“We have taken advice from pest control specialists and trapping has already begun.
“Our preferred method would have been bait, but this is not possible due to the presence of protected species such as badgers and pine martens.
“We are liaising with Scottish Natural Heritage to ensure we are fully compliant with wildlife legislation.
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“The farm’s animals, which include a number of rare breeds such as North Ronaldsay and Boreray sheep, Bagot goats, Tamworth pigs and Scots grey and Scots dumpy poultry, have been dispersed through the park.
“The cafeteria closure is purely precautionary. We have no evidence of rodent activity within this facility but cannot ignore the fact discarded food may attract unwelcome interest.”
It is believed the rats were attracted to animal feed troughs and other animal food sources within the visitor area. The children’s play area and children’s tractor trail have also been closed.
An Open Farm event due to be held at the park has been cancelled and will be rescheduled.
The park’s outdoor toilet facilities and hand washing facilities will remain open to the public.
A council spokesman added: “Our in-house pest control specialists have assessed the situation and the issue is being dealt with.”