MICE AND RAT BIOLOGY: Roof Rat (Rattus rattus) Is also known as the Black Rat, Ship Rat, or House Rat. It is very common in the more southern states. Adults average 7-8 inches long with an additional 8 inch tail, and weigh between 6-10 ounces. Males are usually larger. They breed year-round, and have up to five litters per year. A female can become pregnant within 48 hours after giving birth. The young grow quickly, and are sexually mature within three months. It's rare for rats to live more than one year in the wild, though lab/pet rats can live up the three years.
Norway Rat (Rattus norvegicus) Is also known as the Brown Rat. These rats are larger than Roof Rats, with a more robust body, slightly longer, but a bit shorter tail. They can weigh up to a pound. They are more common in northern parts of the country.
House Mouse (Mus musculus)
is a common rodent pest inside people's homes. They are usually around three inches long and weigh less than an ounce. They're quite a bit smaller than rats. They can have up to a dozen litters per year, and up to a dozen baby mice per litter. That's gross! Average litter size is closer to six. They rarely live longer than a year in the wild.
All of these rodents have excellent hearing and sense of smell, but poor eyesight. They often travel via urine or pheromone pathways. They have excellent speed and balance, and can easily climb most surfaces.
MICE AND RAT BEHAVIOR: Though than can live in a variety of natural habitats. Roof rats tend to live up in trees, whereas Norway Rats and mice live at ground level or even in underground burrows. However, these rodents are known for their association with and dependence on humans. They very frequently live in people's homes or other buildings, especially if these buildings contain or are near food sources. These rodents establish a relatively small home range, and don't travel very far. They are nocturnal, and wait until night, when everything is safe and quiet, before venturing out in search of food. They eat a variety of foods, but often prefer grains. They have rodent teeth that continually grow, and they gnaw on objects in order to wear down the teeth. They can be somewhat territorial, though high population densities can mess up territories.
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NUISANCE CONCERNS: Rats and mice may be the most commonly known nuisance mammal species worldwide. They can be important agricultural pests, but the real concern is their tendency to feed on human food stores, often contaminating what they do not eat. They also chew, and can destroy electrical wires and pretty much anything they get their teeth on. Most of the calls that I get regarding rats has to do with the noise people hear the rats making up in the attic or in the walls. They leave behind a lot of waste in the form of urine and feces. They're also known carriers of zoonotic diseases.
MICE AND RAT DISEASES: Everyone knows about the now-rare Bubonic plague, or “Black Death” of the Middle Ages, but there are over 30 different types of disease are associated with rats and their droppings. They include Rat-bite fever (Streptobacillus moniliformis bacteria), which is transferred from the bite of a rat, the Rickettsia virus, which is similar to chicken pox, Hantavirus, which can cause febrile illness in humans and sometimes kidney, blood, or respiratory ailments, Eosinophilic Meningitis - an infection of the brain, and caused by rat lung worm. The droppings of rats can cause Leptospirosis or Salmonellosis, and rats and mice also bring parasites into the home.
HOW DO I GET RID OF MICE AND RATS? First of all, do not use poison. Poison will never kill all the rodents, and it's only a temporary attempt at a solution - once you kill a few rodents, new ones will just come and take their place. They reproduce very quickly, and space or food supplies will dictate populations. Plus, the use of poisons will frequently mean dead and smelly rats in the attic or walls. The only surefire way to get rid of a rat or mouse problem is to find out how they are getting into the building - seal off all of those area, up to 1/4 inch wide, with steel, and this will keep them out. Once you prevent ingress/egress, you can trap and remove all the rats for a permanent solution. It's much easier said than done. Even experienced pros can miss the dozens of tiny spots that a home might have that will allow rat or mouse entry. Then trapping is another art unto itself. You can't just slap a couple of traps near the attic hatch, they must be placed, dozens of them, strategically on the rat or mouse runways in the attic, on pipes, etc.
CAN'T I JUST USE A REPELLENT? The most common form of "repellent" used is poison, which does not work well, but many other deterrent devices have been developed and marketed. High-frequency sound machines, various odors, etc. Unfortunately, none of these gimmicks work well. I've often trapped rats and mice right next to operating ultrasonic sound machines, just to prove how useless they are. The only way to take care of a rat or mouse problem, folks, is to stop the rodents from getting into the house in the first place! Then you can trap and remove them.
Rats & Mice are usually classified as a pest species due to their habits of living in houses and gnawing.
The most common complaints include the following:
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