Roof rats, also known as rattus rattus, are smaller than Norway rats and are much more agile climbers. They have a wide range of colors, but in the Pacific Northwest tend to be black to dark grey.
The roof rat has a slender body, prominent ears, large eyes and a tail that is longer than the head and body combined. The adult roof rat weighs approximately 8-12 ounces, has a total head and body length of 6-8 inches and a tail length of 7-10 inches.
The roof rat is generally found in coastal regions of the United States, and in Washington almost always on the west side of the state. Unlike the more carnivorous Norway rat, the roof rat’s diet primarily consists of fruits, nuts, cereals and grains.
Slightly larger and stockier, the Norway rat, or rattus norvegicus, is sometimes called the brown rat, wharf rat or sewer rat. This rat most often has brownish fur with a white/grey belly. It has a blunt nose, small eyes, short ears and weighs approximately 1 pound. The Norway rat has a body length of 7-9.5 inches and a tail length of 6-8 inches.
The Norway rat has spread throughout the United States and usually lives at lower elevations, but can be found anywhere humans live. Generally preferring a diet of meats and fish, the Norway rat will typically be found nesting in burrows, crawl spaces, sewers, cellars and other locations closer to the ground.
IDENTIFYING SIGNS OF A RODENT
Rodents are relatively easy to identify. They will often leave droppings, urine spots, and rub marks (dark smudges from their dirty, oily fur) in areas that they travel frequently. A home owner may also hear gnawing or chewing in the attic or crawl space when a rodent infestation exists.
Rodents are said to be the leading cause of electrical fires in structures. They chew on wires, plumbing, pipes, plastic, concrete, wood and a variety of other items. Such behavior stems from the need to keep their teeth worn down. A rat’s urine and feces can also contaminate food and spread disease.
A substantial amount of the damage and contamination caused by rats can be found in a building’s crawl space and/or attic. Rats tear up and contaminate insulation and vapor barrier in an effort to construct nests. Many electrical wires, water lines and heat ducts are damaged by rats chewing as well.
Evidence of chewing may also be seen; wires, pipes, sheetrock, food items, or cardboard boxes may be chewed through. A heavy rodent infestation also leaves a powerful odor; large amounts of rodent urine will have a strong ammonia smell.
Burrowing is often a sign of a heavy infestation, and rodent burrow holes can sometimes be seen under and around a home. It should be noted that for rats, an infestation can go unknown for a long time before ever being discovered.
Even when an infestation is heavy, rats will tend to hide from people. You may go into a heavily infested crawl space and never see a rat! Mice, on the other hand, are very curious and will often venture into our living spaces and be seen.
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