"Aww rats!! Look at my landscaping. Why is it being disturbed?" "Aww rats" may be right on the money. Rats aren't just cute pets or creatures that lurk in sewers. Rats make their homes wherever humans do, which may include your lawn or garden.
What do rats look like?
There are two very common types of rats that may be seen on your property: Norway (or brown) rats and Roof (or black) rats. Norway rats are grayish brown in color with their stomachs being a lighter shade. They are 10-12 inches long and weigh 10-17 ounces fully grown. They have a blunt nose and their tails are shorter than their bodies. Roof rats are black and slender. They are 6-8 inches in length and have a pointed nose. Both types of rats have very strong front teeth that never stop growing.
Where do rats live?
Rats live everywhere humans do. They live outside in lawns, gardens, and inside in attics, basements, and wall spaces. Outside rats may try to make your home theirs by moving in through spaces as small as the size of a quarter. Norway rats, which are the rats that live in yards, fields, and gardens, create burrow systems. The burrow systems may be complex or simple depending on the social relationships of the rats. Burrow systems exist 12 to 18 inches below the surface and often can be found near structures that provide cover such as concrete slabs or walls. A burrow opening is typically 3 to 10 inches in diameter and will be marked by a mound of soil around it. The entrance can be temporarily sealed with cut vegetation or permanently sealed with dirt packed into place. Burrows are often started by pregnant females just before they give birth. Female rats live in groups of 1 to 6 and will raise their young together.
How do I know if I have rats?
If you pay close attention, the signs that you have rats are hard to miss. Rats travel along the same path everyday so trails will form around your lawn, garden, and landscaping. You may also notice smudge marks on walls, pipes, and gnawed openings that rats make due to their oily fur. You may see droppings, footprints and tail drags in dusty areas, and gnaw marks. You may also hear sounds of climbing, crawling, and moving.
Is there such a thing as "rat season"?
Rats are active at all times during the year.
When is a rat's mating season?
Rats do not have a specific mating season. They usually mate 4 to 7 times per year and begin breeding when they are 3 to 4 months old. They typically produce a litter of 6 to 12 young after a gestation period of 3 weeks. A rat is able to get pregnant again just 1 to 2 days after giving birth.
Why should I bother with them if they stay outside?
As previously mentioned, sometimes outdoor rats move indoors. Even if they stay outside, rats are known for doing a great deal of damage. Rats damage 1/5 of the world's food crop per year. Rats eat flowers, leaves, seeds, nuts, grains, fruits, vegetables, meat, and invertebrates. The strong teeth of a rat enable it to chew through glass, lead, aluminum, cinder block, wire, and underground piping, thus doing much damage to structures and landscaping. Additionally, rats do carry diseases that can be passed onto humans and animals.
When is it a good time to get rat control?
The sooner, the better. Do not hesitate to begin the process of ridding yourself of these pesky invaders.