Common Name: Rodent - Roof Rat
Latin Name: Rattus rattus
Common Family Name: Rats and Mice
Latin Family Name: Muridae
Other Names: Black rat, ship rat, house rat, tree rat, climbing rat, white-bellied rat. Also as two subspecies called the fruit rat (Rattus rattus frugivorous) and the Alexandrine Rat (R. r. alexandrinus).
Origin: Native to forested areas in Southeast Asia, but transported into Europe by caravans as early as the 11th century. It was the common structural rat in Europe during the Black Death episode in the 14th Century. It arrived in the United States somewhere in the 1500’s, although this is not certain. In the U.S. it is not as widespread as the Norway Rat, generally staying within 100 miles of a coastline, and occurring throughout cities from Washington to southern California, along the Gulf Coast and up the entire eastern seaboard.
Biology: The Roof Rat is an “arboreal” animal, preferring to live above ground level in trees, although it has adapted well to upper areas of structures as well, living in attics and traveling by means of wires and cables attached to homes. It is nocturnal and secretive, staying out of view within the foliage provided in landscaped environments, and feeding heavily on the fruits, nuts, vegetables, or garden snails found there. Like the Norway Rat is also is shy about new objects in its familiar environment, and may avoid control measures such as traps or bait stations. A normal life expectancy for them is one year or less, ranging from 5 to 18 months. The gestation period of the female is 22 days, litters average 8 to 9 pups, and she may have 3 to 4 litters in her one year, being somewhat less prolific than the Norway Rat. Peaks in breeding occur in the spring and the fall. Problems from Roof Rats include the potential for disease, such as plague, spread by their fleas. They are extremely destructive to stored food products in structures, crops in residential areas, and cause tremendous damage due to their gnawing on structural members, pipes, and electrical wires.
Identification: The Roof Rat is a smaller, slimmer rat than the Norway Rat, and cannot compete with the Norway when space is limited. Its tail is noticeably longer than its body length, the best ID characteristic in the field. In relation to its head it has a pointed nose, large eyes, and large ears. Its color is dark gray to black with a lighter grayish belly, and it ranges to a lighter brown depending on which “subspecies” is present.
Characteristics Important in Control: Exclusion from structures is of high importance in preventing entry and damage from this rat. They can enter through any opening wider than one half inch, swim well, and can climb any rough surface, along wires and cables, and can jump vertically about 3 feet. Glue trays work very well for Roof Rats, along with snap traps placed in runways and bait stations using various formulations. Like the other domestic rodents they prefer to remain against vertical surfaces, in contact with their “guard hairs” on their body, and control measures should be placed against these pathways.
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Common Name: Rodent - House mouse
Latin Name: Mus musculus
Common Family Name: Rats and mice
Latin Family Name: Muridae
Other Names: Field mouse
Origin: This species originated in Eastern Asia in arid grasslands, allowing it to evolve the ability to survive without needing frequent water. It now occurs throughout the world.
Biology: A prolific breeder, the House Mouse is sexually mature at 2 months old, has a gestation period of only 3 weeks, and averages 5 to 8 young per litter, but potentially up to 15. Each female may give birth to 8 litters. The life span can be from 2 to 3 years. The House Mouse is a nibbler, consuming small quantities of food at many feedings. They are “curious”, and tend to investigate new objects that are placed in their environment. Favored foods may be grains, dried fruits, nuts, and sweet materials. They are known reservoirs of diseases such as rickettsial pox (mites), typhus (fleas), and filth problems with Salmonella, tapeworm, roundworm, and others parasites.
Identification: Adults remain small, less than 7 inches long from tip of nose to tip of tail. They have hairless, scaly tails that separate them from meadow or deer mice, and ears relatively bare of hairs. A young rat looks similar to the House Mouse, but the rat has feet and eyes that are disproportionately large in comparison with its head and body.
Characteristics Important in Control: The full complement of traps and baits are effective on mice. Exclusion should consider closing any openings as wide as ¼ inch, along with elimination of any harborage sites that are not needed, such as waste piles, packing boxes, wood piles, or heavy outside vegetation. Like the other domestic rodents they prefer to remain against vertical surfaces, in contact with their “guard hairs” on their body, and control measures should be placed against these pathways.
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