Rodents

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NORWAY RAT

Biology: This rat is commonly sold as a “pet rat”, and has been bred for white coloration as “lab rats” as well, leading to the occurrence of white and brown marked races. It is primarily a ground dweller, although it can climb very well, and prefers to reside in burrows. It swims very well and often lives in sewers and other underground water systems. It is primarily a nocturnal animal, and will restrict its range of movement only to that which is needed to find food and water, perhaps only 20 or 30 from home. Norway Rats are omnivores and opportunistic feeders, feeding on any natural or human foods available. They are neophobic and may avoid new objects placed in their environment for some time. A normal life expectancy for them is one year or less, although when cared for they may live several years. The gestation period of the female is 22 days, litters average 8 to 9 pups, and she may have several litters in her one year. Damage from gnawing can be extensive, as they chew on pipes of plastic or metal, wires, wood, or furnishings and walls, and commonly bite humans. While not the primary reservoir of bubonic plague, they have the potential to spread this disease, along with several others as well as filth infections.

Identification: Adult rats are large and robust, being up to 16 inches from nose to tip of tail. Their tail length is shorter than their body length, and it is scaly and almost without hairs. Colors range from white to brown to mottled, or blackish gray, reddish brown, and other variations. In relation to its head it has a blunt nose, small eyes, and small ears.

ROOF RAT

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.

HOUSE/FIELD MOUSE

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.

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