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Date: Nov 14, 2019

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Rodents & Animal Removal PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 14 March 2009 16:02


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Rats & mice are some of the most troublesome and damaging rodents in the United States.

According to the Texas Cooperative Extension publication the three primary house infesting rodents in Texas are the
Norway rat, roof or Alexandrine rat, and the house mouse. Together they are known as commensal rodents because they live
in intimate association with man. They consume and contaminate food, damage structures and property, and
transmit parasites and diseases to other animals and humans. Rats live and thrive under a wide variety of climates and conditions; they are often found in and around homes and other buildings, farms, barns, stables, gardens, and open fields.
People do not often see rats, but signs of their presence are easy to detect. The most troublesome rats are
two introduced species: the Roof rat and the Norway rat.

Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus), sometimes called brown or sewer rats, are stocky burrowing rodents that are larger than roof rats. Their burrows are found along building foundations, beneath rubbish or woodpiles, and in moist areas in and around gardens and fields. Nests may be lined with shredded paper, cloth, or other fibrous material. When Norway rats invade buildings, they usually remain in the basement or ground floor. The Norway rat occurs throughout the 48 contiguous United States. Generally it is founds at lower elevations but may occur wherever people live. Norway rats eat a wide variety of foods but mostly prefer cereal grains, meats, fish, nuts, and some fruits. When searching for food and water, Norway rats usually travel an area of about 100 to 150 feet in diameter; seldom do they travel any further than 300 feet from their burrows or nests. The average female Norway rat has four to six litters per year and may successfully wean 20 or more offspring annually.

Roof rats (Rattus rattus), sometimes called black rats, and are slightly smaller than Norway rats. Unlike Norway rats, their tails are longer than their heads and bodies combined. Roof rats are very agile climbers and usually live and nest above ground in shrubs, trees, and dense vegetation such as ivy. In buildings, they are most often found in enclosed or elevated spaces in attics, walls, false ceilings, and cabinets. The roof rat has a more limited geographical range than the Norway rat, preferring ocean-influenced, warmer climates.

Roof Rat geographical range

Roof Rats, Like Norway rats, roof rats eat a wide variety of foods, but their food preferences are primarily fruits, nuts, berries, slugs, and snails. Roof rats are especially fond of avocados and citrus and often eat fruit that is still on the tree. When feeding on a mature orange, they make a small hole through which they completely remove the contents of the fruit, leaving only the hollowed out rind hanging on the tree. The rind of a lemon is often eaten, leaving the flesh of the sour fruit still hanging. Their favorite habitats are attics, trees, and overgrown shrubbery or vines. Residential or industrial areas with mature landscaping provide good habitat, as does riparian vegetation of riverbanks and streams. Roof rats prefer to nest in locations off the ground and rarely dig burrows for living quarters if off-the-ground sites exist.
Roof rats routinely travel up to 300 feet for food. They may live in the landscaping of one residence and feed at another. They can often be seen at night running along overhead utility lines or fence tops. They have an excellent sense of balance and use their long tails for balance while traveling along overhead utility lines. They move faster than Norway rats and are very agile climbers, which enables them to quickly escape predators. They may live in trees or in attics and climb down to a food source. The average number of litters a female roof rat has per year depends on many factors, but generally is three to five with from five to eight young in each litter. In areas where the roof rat occurs, the Norway rat may also be present. If you are unsure of the species, look for rats at night with a strong flashlight or trap a few. There are several key physical differences between the two species of rats; Table 1 summarizes identifying characteristics.

Table 1. Identifying Characteristics of Adult Rats

CharacteristicRoof RatNorway Rat
General Appearancesleek, agileLarge, robust
Color of Bellygray to whitemostly grayish
Body Weight5 to 10 ounces7 to 18 ounces
Tailextends at least to snout; black; fine scalesshort than body; dark above; pale below; scales
Headmuzzle pointedmuzzle blunt
Earslong enough to reach eyes if folded overdo not reach eyes

Norway rats do not tolerate large numbers of each other, but 100 or more roof rats might live together in an area. Norway and roof rats are rarely found living in the same building.

Both Norway and roof rats may gain entry to structures by gnawing, climbing, jumping, or swimming through sewers and entering through the toilet or broken drains. While Norway rats are more powerful swimmers, roof rats are more agile and are better climbers. Norway and roof rats do not get along. The Norway rat is larger and the more dominant species; it will kill a roof rat in a fight. When the two species occupy the same building, Norway rats will dominate the basement and ground floors, with roof rats occupying the attic or second and third floors. Contrary to some conceptions, the two species cannot interbreed. Both species may share some of the same food resources but do not feed side-by-side. Rats may grab food and carry it off to feed elsewhere.

Rats, like house mice, are mostly active at night. They have poor eyesight, but they make up for this with their keen senses of hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Rats constantly explore and learn about their environment, memorizing the locations of pathways, obstacles, food and water, shelter, and other elements in their domain. They quickly detect and tend to avoid new objects placed into a familiar environment. Thus, objects such as traps and baits often are avoided for several days or more following their initial placement. While both species exhibit this avoidance of new objects, it is usually more pronounced in roof rats than in Norway rats.

Rats consume and contaminate foodstuffs and animal feed. They also damage containers and packaging materials in which foods and feed are stored. Both species of rats cause problems by gnawing on electrical wires and wooden structures (doors, ledges, in corners, and in wall material) and tearing up insulation in walls and ceilings for nesting.
Norway rats may undermine building foundations and slabs with their burrowing activities. They may also gnaw on all types of materials, including soft metals such as copper and lead as well as plastic and wood. If roof rats are living in the attic of a residence, they can cause considerable damage with their gnawing and nest-building activities. They also damage garden crops and ornamental plantings.

Among the diseases rats may transmit to humans or livestock are murine typhus, leptospirosis, trichinosis, salmonellas (food poisoning), and rat bite fever. Plague is a disease that can be carried by both roof and Norway rats, but in California it is more commonly associated with ground squirrels, chipmunks, and native wood rats.

Rats of either species, especially young rats, can squeeze beneath a door with only a 1/2-inch gap. If the door is made of wood, the rat may gnaw to enlarge the gap, but this may not be necessary.

How to Spot a Rat Infestation
Because rats are active throughout the year, periodically check for signs of their presence. Once rats have invaded your garden or landscaping, unless your house is truly rodent proof, it is only a matter of time before you find evidence of them indoors. Experience has shown it is less time consuming to control rodents before their numbers get too high, and fewer traps and less bait will be required if control is started early.

Inspect your yard and home thoroughly. If the answer to any of the following questions is yes, you may have a rat problem.

  • Do you find rat droppings around dog or cat dishes or pet food storage containers?

  • Do you hear noises coming from the attic just after dusk?

  • Have you found remnants of rat nests when dismantling your firewood stack?

  • Does your dog or cat bring home dead rat carcasses?

  • Is there evidence rodents are feeding on fruit/nuts that are in or falling from the trees in your yard?

  • Do you see burrows among plants or damaged vegetables when working in the garden?

  • Do you see rats traveling along utility lines or on the tops of fences at dusk or soon after?

  • Have you found rat nests behind boxes or in drawers in the garage?

  • Are there smudge marks caused by the rats rubbing their fur against beams, rafters, pipes, and walls?

  • Do you see burrows beneath your compost pile or beneath the garbage can?

  • Are there rat or mouse droppings in your recycle bins?

  • Have you ever had to remove a drowned rat from your swimming pool or hot tub?

  • Do you see evidence of something digging under your garden tool shed or doghouse?

While rats are much larger than the common house mouse or meadow vole, a young rat is occasionally confused with a mouse.


In general, very young rats have large feet and large heads in proportion to their bodies, whereas those of adult mice are much smaller in proportion to their body size. While both rats and mice gnaw on wood, rats leave much larger tooth marks than those of a mouse.

Mice make smaller, neater nests that are normally placed inside any kind of shelter ranging from underneath paper sacks to loose hay, or even inside upholstered furniture
Because rats (and house mice) are excellent climbers, openings above ground level must also be plugged.

Signs of mouse infestation include visible droppings, tracks seen in moist or dusty areas, burrows in the ground or in hay stacks and nests. Gnawing signs and greasy looking smears that are left when their bodies touch walls or rafters may also be seen. In poorly ventilated areas you might even be able to smell them. Quietly listening for running and squeaking/squealing sounds after dark in areas where infestation is suspected might help confirm their presence as well.

Principle methods for controlling mice include removing shelter - prompt disposal of empty feed sacks and boxes, and storing lumber and other materials at least 18 inches off the ground with a space between the material and the wall.

Three elements are necessary for a successful rat management program: sanitation measures, building construction and rodent proofing, and, if necessary, population control.

  • Sanitation
    Sanitation is fundamental to rat control and must be continuous. If sanitation measures are not properly maintained, the benefits of other measures will be lost, and rats will quickly return. Good housekeeping in and around buildings will reduce available shelter and food sources for Norway and, to some extent, roof rats. Neat, off-the-ground storage of pipes, lumber, firewood, crates, boxes, gardening equipment, and other household goods will help reduce the suitability of the area for rats and will also make their detection easier. Garbage, trash, and garden debris should be collected frequently, and all garbage receptacles should have tight-fitting covers. Where dogs are kept and fed outdoors, rats may become a problem if there is a ready supply of dog food. Feed your pet only the amount of food it will eat at a feeding, and store pet food in rodent-proof containers.

  • Building Construction and Rodent Proofing
    The most successful and long lasting form of rat control in buildings is to "build them out." Seal cracks and openings in building foundations, and any openings for water pipes, electric wires, sewer pipes, drain spouts, and vents. No hole larger than 1/4 inch should be left unsealed to exclude both rats and house mice. Make sure doors, windows, and screens fit tightly. Their edges can be covered with sheet metal if gnawing is a problem. Coarse steel wool, wire screen, and lightweight sheet metal are excellent materials for plugging gaps and holes. Plastic sheeting, wood, caulking, and other less sturdy materials are likely to be gnawed away.

Population Control
When food, water, and shelter are available, rat populations can reproduce and grow quickly. While the most permanent form of control is to limit food, water, shelter, and access to buildings, direct population control is often necessary

Steps To Rid Property of Rodents
Rats and mice around the home or farm are no laughing matter. Aside from causing damage to feedstuffs, rats and mice can be vectors of disease.

If you discover that you have rats or mice living in or around your residence.
Please call BugFree Termite & Pest for your rodent control services.
We care about you and want to keep you safe.

***The Texas Department of State Health Services has recommended these precautions for dealing with
rats and mice after two people in the state developed Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome this year***

  • Wear protective gloves when handling dead mice and rats or when cleaning up nesting areas, urine or droppings.

  • Open windows and ventilate the inside area for at least 30 minutes prior to cleaning up nests or droppings.

  • Do not stir up nests by sweeping or vacuuming. Dampen areas before cleanup.

  • Use a disinfectant or make a 1-part-to-10-part bleach-water mixture to clean up dead rodents, nests, urine or droppings.


By calling BugFree Termite and Pest you can be assured of a professional recommendation and program
for dealing with any animal or rodent problem.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 December 2009 00:42


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