In the past five years we have seen major increases in the number of rats infesting our homes. More than ever, we get calls from people thinking they have mice, only to find they are in fact rats. With the increased number of man-made lakes, gullies, construction of commercial buildings, and new subdivisions; combined with the adverse weather and increased hurricane activity we have been experiencing in the last several years, the rats have been moving inland in search of new shelters. Unfortunately, the rats’ search has brought them into the warmth of our homes.

Rodents are among the most successful mammals on earth; they are adaptable, can colonize many different types of land masses, and feed on almost anything. They live in the wild for about one year, procreating up to 12 times in that year with each liter producing 6 to 12 pups. Of the nearly 1700 varieties of rat; we, in this area, are most likely to see either the Norway (Rattus Norvegicus) or the Roof (Rattus Linnaeus) rat.

The Norway is a ground dwelling species — dependent on people for food. Norway rats will typically burrow under decks, in shrubbery, or in the crawl space of a house. Like most rats, the Norway rat has poor vision, blunt noses, and is color blind. The typical Norway rat is 7 to 10 inches long with an additional 6 to 8 inches of tail. Their paths, or runways, can be determined by greasy rub marks on vertical surfaces. They will also be free of dust and cobwebs. Norway rats prefer to eat meat, fish, cereal and dry goods with dog food being a favorite. Many of this variety of rat have been seen in crawl spaces.

The Roof rat, the more aggressive of the two varieties, prefers its solitude; they are less dependent on humans for their survival preferring the elevations of the treetops or roofs. Like the Norway rat, the Roof rat has poor vision and is color blind. Their body and tail length is just the opposite of the Norway rat, having bodies 6 to 8 inches long and tails 7 to10 inches with pointed noses. Unlike the Norway rat, a Roof rat’s runway may not be as apparent outside because they travel along power lines, telephone lines, or along fence tops. They also prefer fruits, vegetables, and cereals to eat.

Although most people think rats are nocturnal, but this is not the case. They are most active during the early evening hours/ preferring to sleep in their nests to protect their young throughout the night. Both types of rats, although curious, will tend to shy away from new things such as bait stations, for example, placed in their environments. Gnaw marks and feces are present in areas where rats spend most of their time. Rats tend to follow established paths and have been known to travel 100 to 150 feet in search of food and water; each type/ requiring at least 1 ounce of water per day.

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