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The rats *do* run this city (Image: Tina Tiller)
The rats *do* run this city (Image: Tina Tiller)

KaiFebruary 15, 2024

Rat tracker: An interactive map of supermarket rodent sightings in NZ

The rats *do* run this city (Image: Tina Tiller)
The rats *do* run this city (Image: Tina Tiller)

The rats are taking over the shelves. This map and timeline will be updated if and when new sightings occur.

In recent weeks, sightings of rats and mice in supermarkets have plagued New Zealand media. The little, and sometimes not so little, furry creatures are excellent at finding their way into anywhere there’s food, and are also excellent at contaminating it since they’re dirty and poo a lot. It’s not a newly acquired skill – rat sightings among food certainly predate the concept of supermarkets and duopolies and excess profits. Nor are rodents new to supermarket management, or exclusive to Dunedin. In 2019, Takanini Countdown had mice running wild and smelt like it; in 2021 Newtown Countdown said warm weather and a nearby demolition had led mice into their store; and just last year, Christchurch’s Eastgate Countdown, the location of the infamous potato salad, had mouse poo strewn around its boxes of Tasti Mega Nuts caramel muesli bars.

As of today, The Spinoff has dedicated a small team to tracking the rat and mice movements. Welcome to our live rodent radar.

January 25

The Otago Daily Times runs a photo of one rat, doubled by the magic of a mirror, peering from salami shelves at Dunedin South Countdown on the front page, under the headline “Staff relieved, inquiry begins”. The worker who provided the photo said it was taken in November, and that rats were first detected in the store in October. The photo seems to have captured the hearts and minds of New Zealanders, who have followed the plight of the supermarket rats closely.

January 25

At least one rat was “definitely living its best life in there”, said Dunedin South Countdown customer Tammy Ung to Checkpoint on RNZ. She was in the fruit and vege section when in the corner of her eye she saw a rat running through the wine bottles. On RNZ she said the rat was “at least, I’d say, 25cm long, and then tail on top of that. It was quite a decent size. Not a little baby rat at all.”

January 25 

The food safety deputy director-general said that MPI had received complaints about the rat problem at Dunedin South Countdown which prompted an investigation. Woolworths New Zealand, outed by its staff and customers, confirmed a recent increase of “pest activity” in the store. They said that a pest control contractor was making daily visits, and that cleaning procedures were being ramped up.

February 7

A tiny grey mouse was spotted and snapped in a bowl of potato salad in the deli section at Christchurch’s Eastgate Countdown. At the same supermarket nine months ago, in April 2023, another customer found mouse poo on the muesli bar shelves, especially around Tasti Mega Nuts caramel.

February 9

It was announced on February 9 that the Dunedin South Countdown branch where rats were first discovered in late January would be closed to allow for pest control measures. An additional pest controller was brought on site to help deal with the problem. The store’s original closure was supposed to be for 48 hours, but it was ultimately extended. At the time of writing this story (Valentines Day/February 14) it is still closed. 

February 10/11

Over the weekend pest controllers captured a further 13 rats at the Dunedin South Countdown while the store was closed for capturing, cleaning and monitoring. During the previous week four rodents were captured. An anonymous supermarket worker told RNZ that the issue had been going on for months and the store’s management had responded too slowly.

February 12

The Dunedin South Countdown remained closed on February 12 to undertake further pest control measures. Woolworths director of stores Jason Stockill said that two pest controllers were working on site with cameras and traps. New Zealand Food Safety deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle confirmed that a further four rodents were caught in the store overnight, bringing the total number of rats captured to 20. 

February 13 

On the afternoon of February 13 at the same Dunedin South Countdown that has been under the rodent radar of late, Woolworths New Zealand’s director of stores Jason Stockill confirmed that a further two rats had been caught in the previous 24 hours. Adding to that, he claimed that a further four rats were caught on February 12. These recent rat captures bring the total number of rats caught in the Dunedin South branch since February 5 to a total of 23.

February 13

During a lunchtime shop at Pak’nSave on Lincoln Rd, a customer was disgusted when she saw a little mouse run from the bakery section to the shampoo aisle. She then helped a staff member catch the mouse in a box.

More to come.

Keep going!