Rodent Identification & Prevention
Rodent (Mice & Rats)
Mice are the most common pest in and around human living and workplaces. They damage and destroy materials by gnawing at and eating your food, especially cereal products, chocolate and nuts. They attack decorations such as floral or harvest/grain arrangements and carry human diseases and ectoparasites that may affect people or pets.
Mice have a head and body length of about 2″ to 3 1/2″ and are usually gray with a dull white belly. Although an adult mouse weighs only about an ounce, they eat often and leave their typical calling card “droppings”, all-around your house.
Mouse droppings are small, long and pointed compared to the larger, blunt droppings of rats. Although they usually live for only about a year, if all their offspring lived and reproduced at a similar rate, one pair of mice could produce a population of more than 500 mice in one year.
Mice are good at climbing and jumping. They can jump about a foot straight up, and can jump down more than six feet without getting hurt. An adult mouse can squeeze through a crack or hole as small as 3/8″ across.
Even though one mouse does not eat much, as their population grows, they can eat a surprising amount of food. They also damage food containers, and their droppings and urine droplets contaminate a lot more food than they eat. The use of both traps and baits are effective products for mice.
Exclusion is also something one should consider in the war against rodents. You should consider closing any openings as wide as 1/4″, along with the elimination of any harborage sites that are not needed, such as waste piles, packing boxes, woodpiles, or heavy outside vegetation.
Like other domestic rodents, they prefer to travel against vertical surfaces, in contact using their “guard hairs” on their body, and control measures should be placed along these pathways.
A rat’s teeth grow about a half-inch per month. Rats need to chew constantly, otherwise their teeth could grow to be a foot long in just 2 years.
Rats are thigmophilic, which means they rely on touch to navigate their environment. As they weave their way through food sources, they develop a muscle memory of the spaces.
Rats can jump 3 feet vertically and 4 feet horizontally. They can quickly climb straight up an eight-foot wall of brick or wood paneling in less than half a minute.
The Norway rat is a stocky burrowing rodent, unintentionally introduced to North America by the settlers who arrived on ships from Europe. First introduced into the United States about 1775 (thank you founding fathers), this rat has now spread throughout the contiguous 48 states. The Norway rat, also referred to as the brown rat, house rat or sewer rat, is the most common rat found.
The Norway rat has a blunt nose and small ears that are closely set, as seen in the picture, and do not reach the eyes when pulled down (not that you would pull them down to find out). Their tail is scaly, semi-naked and shorter than the head and body combined. The adult Norway rat can weigh as much as 1 pound. Their fur is coarse and usually is brownish or reddish-gray above, and whitish-gray on the belly. Blackish individuals occur in some locations.
Norway Rats Habitat
Norway rats live in close association with people and can grow between 7″ to 11″ not including their tail. They burrow to make nests under buildings and other structures, beneath concrete slabs, along stream banks, around ponds, in garbage dumps, and at other locations where suitable food, water and shelter are present.
On farms, they may inhabit barns, granaries, livestock buildings, silos, and kennels. In urban or suburban areas they live in and around residences, in cellars, warehouses, stores, slaughterhouses, docks, and in sewers. Although they can climb, Norway rats tend to inhabit the lower floors of multi-story buildings.
What They Eat
Norway rats will eat nearly any type of food. When given a choice, they select a nutritionally balanced diet, choosing fresh, wholesome items over stale or contaminated foods.
They prefer cereal grains, meats and fish, nut, and some types of fruit. Rats require 1/2 to 1 ounce of water daily when feeding on dry foods but need less when moist foods are available. Food items in household garbage offer a fairly balanced diet and also satisfy their moisture needs. Norway rats are primarily nocturnal.
Habits of Norway Rats
They usually become active about dusk, when they begin to seek food and water. Some individuals may be active during daylight hours when the rat population is high, when disturbed (weather change, construction, etc.) or when their food source is threatened. The territories of most rats are between 50 and 150 feet radius of the nest.
Rats have poor eyesight beyond three or four feet, relying more on their hearing and their excellent senses of smell, taste and touch. Norway rats are very sensitive to motion up to 30-50 feet away. They are considered essentially colorblind. Norway rats have a highly developed sense of touch due to very sensitive body hairs and whiskers, which they use to explore their environment.
Much of a rodent’s movement in a familiar area relies heavily on the senses of touch and smell to direct it through time-tested movements learned by exploration and knowledge of its home range. Rodents prefer a stationary object on at least one side of them as they travel and thus commonly move along walls, a fact which is very useful when designing a control program.
Norway rats usually construct nests in below-ground burrows or at ground level. Nests may be lined with shredded paper, cloth, or other fibrous material. Litters of 6 to 12 young are born 21 to 23 days after conception.
Newborn rats are naked and their eyes are closed, but they grow rapidly, eating solid food at 2 1/2 to 3 weeks. They become completely independent at about 3 to 4 weeks and reach reproductive maturity at 3 months of age, sometimes as early as 8 weeks. Female Norway rats may come into heat every 4 or 5 days, and they may mate within a day after a litter is born. The average female rat has 4 to 6 litters per year and may successfully wean 20 or more offspring annually.
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