By Mike O'brien
Speared: Housing Authority worker Jose Rivera with the mutant monster rat at the Marcy Houses in Brooklyn
A huge rat has been speared to death by a pitchfork at a sprawling New York housing project.
Jose Rivera, a Housing Authority worker, was clearing a rat hole at the Marcy Houses in Brooklyn when three of the creatures popped out.
He was only able to nab one. It appears to be almost three feet long, including the tail, is covered in white fur and looks well-fed.
Mr Rivera, 48, said: 'I hit it one time and it was still moving.
'I hit it another time and that's when it died. I'm not scared of rats but I was scared of being bitten.'
Naomi Colon, head of the Marcy Houses Tenant Association, said there have been sightings of the outsize rat for at least six years.
She said: 'The residents have told me that they've seen it running around with other rats.
'She lived with them. She ran into the same hole they ran in.'
Animal experts have identified the monster rodent as a Gambian pouched rat, which is a fairly common pet rat.
They are nocturnal, can grow to three feet, weigh four pounds or more and live seven or eight years, the New York Daily News reports.
Imports have been banned since 2003, when the rats were blamed for a monkeypox outbreak that affected 100 people.
Captivity: A Gambian pouched rat. The creatures, which grow to 3ft long and weigh up to 4lbs, are often kept as pets
Dr Paul Calle, director of zoological health at the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the Marcy Houses specimen was probably an escaped or discarded pet who decided to join the regular rats.
He said: 'They are a very social animal and live in big groups in the wild.
'Our Norway rats are the closest big rodents it could accompany.'
He said they can be trained to sniff out landmines,adding that 'they're pretty remarkable animals'.
Tenants fear that the Gambian rat has been breeding with the Norway rats and spawning a super-breed of rodents.
But Mr Calle said the imported rat probably would not mate with local rats, and it couldn't reproduce if it did, because each is from a different genus.
One Marcy Houses resident, who declined to be named for fear of reprisals from city or property management, described the conditions there.
'In one day eight big size rats were killed,' he said, adding that they have been seen in the playground.
Another resident said: 'Adults had to grab children and run because a lot of rats came on the playground. The kids were screaming.'
Resident Stephanie Davis, 44, said: 'Even the cats are afraid of the rats. They get together and gang up on the cats.'
Pam Davis, 43, added: 'They're here day and night. We don't dodge bullets. We dodge rats.They're so big, they should charge them rent.'