February 20th, 2013
Before, we talked about getting rid of bats and squirrels to protect your home from damage and disease. In today’s post, we’ll look at what the roof rat is (other than a pest), and how to get rid of them from your home.
The roof rat is one of two introduced rats found in the contiguous 48 states. The Norway rat (R. norvegicus) is the other species and is better known because of its widespread distribution. A third rat species, the Polynesian rat (R. exulans) is present in the Hawaiian Islands but not on the mainland. Rattus rattus is commonly known as the roof rat, black rat, and ship rat. Roof rats were common on early sailing ships and apparently arrived in North America by that route. This rat has a long history as a carrier of plague.
Roof rats are the common rat along the Pacific coast from San Diego all the way up to Vancouver, B.C. They prefer warmer weather compared to their cousin the Norway rat. Roof rats often live in trees or vines, and enter homes from the roof or from accesses near overhead utility lines, which they use to travel from area to area.
They’re similar to squirrels in that they eat nuts and fruits, and they need to gnaw on hard things because their teeth continually grow.
Rats are omnivores and will eat almost anything, though. They also need to have access to a water supply since they need to have water every day.
Rats usually begin searching for food shortly after sunset. If the food is in an exposed area and too large to be eaten quickly, but not too large to be moved, they will usually carry it to a hiding place before eating it. Many rats may cache or hoard considerable amounts of solid food, which they eat later. Such caches may be found in a dismantled wood pile, attic, or behind boxes in a garage.
They can produce about 3 litters a year, and the young are independent after about a month.
Rats rely more on their keen senses of smell, taste, touch, and hearing than on vision. They are considered to be color-blind, responding only to the degree of lightness and darkness of color.
They use their keen sense of smell to locate and select food items, identify territories and travel routes, and recognize other rats, especially those of the opposite sex. Taste perception of rats is good; once rats locate food, the taste will determine their food preferences.
Touch is an important sense in rats. The long, sensitive whiskers (vibrissae) near their nose and the guard hairs on their body are used as tactile sensors. The whiskers and guard hairs enable the animals to travel adjacent to walls in the dark and in burrows.
Roof rats also have an excellent sense of balance. They use their 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. Their keen sense of hearing also aids in their ability to detect and escape danger.
Like squirrels, they can chew through wires, pipes, walls and just about everything that could cause fires or floods. So they can’t be ignored.
The good news is that unlike bats, they’re not protected, so you can remove the pest at any time. You will want to look into exclusion methods once they’re removed to prevent them from coming back in. Also, look at some of your habits. Perhaps you leave dog food outside, and that’s attracting them. You may need to remove some vines near your home.
Don’t use poison as they will crawl into your walls or ducts, and the smell can be horrific.
Snap traps are the least expensive option. There are battery operated traps that kill the rodent immediately and humanely. Then all you have to do is carry the enclosed housing to your garbage can and dump out the rat. You never have to actually touch the rat like you might with a snap trap.
Some of the best bait is peanut butter with chocolate chips in it because the peanut butter has a strong scent, and rats are attracted to both.
Have you had to get rid of roof rats? Did they stay out?