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|Roof Rat (Rattus rattus)
Rattus rattus is the predominant rat in Florida. This rat goes by many names including black, roof, and citrus rat. Roof rats were introduced to North America as accidental passengers on early sailing ships.
Today the roof rat is found in the south east US from Texas to Florida and also along the length of the US Pacific Coast. The roof rat is best suited for tropical or subtropical climates.
Body size: 3 to 8 inches long
Tail length: 3 to 8 inches, essentially identical to body length
Weight: 5 to 12 oz
Lifespan: 2-3 years
Gestation: 21 - 23 days
Litter size: 5 to 8 per litter
Rats are carnivorous; they will eat nearly all types of food including fallen fruits and nuts, pet food, and garbage.
Roof rats begin searching for food after sunset. They will carry food to a safe place to eat. These rats will often hoarde food in protected corners of attics.
Like the gray squirrel, the roof rat prefers a wide variety of fruit and nuts.
On average a female rat will birth 3 litters annually. Unlike other Florida wildlife, there is no breeding season for rats ... they breed throughout the year. By 2 weeks old, the baby rat is moving around the nest and has opened its eyes. At 3 months of age, the rat is completely independent
of its mother. At just 3 months old, the rat is sexually mature.
Rats can climb brick or stucco, jump vertically up to 36" and horizontally to 48". They can enter through any opening larger than 1/2" square.
They can gnaw through cinderblock, wood, aluminum, and lead sheeting.
The population of rats for any given area is dependent on availability of food, water, warmth, safety, and physical space.
Their high fertility rate allows quick population recovery if many individuals are killed.
Rats leave pellet size droppings that are distinguished from squirrel droppings by their "crinkledness". Squirrel droppings which are roughly the same size and color are smooth in texture. Areas that are
well traveled by rats are stained brown from their body oils.
Roof rats are nocturnal; and most of their activity occurs between midnight and 4am. Timing of sounds heard helps distinguish rat infestation from squirrel infestation.
Rats like dogs. There is often a correlation between rat problems and the keeping of dogs, especially where dogs are fed outdoors.
Many times a home owner will see a young rat and purchase mouse traps to solve the "mouse" problem. Mouse traps are identical to rat traps except too small to be effective against any rat older than 1 month.
Rat infestations are caused by faults of a building. People's habits only play a small part in causing the problem. Keeping an uncluttered landscape, cutting tree branches away from roof, picking up fallen citrus fruit, and keeping pet food well sealed
are some ways a homeowner can keep their property less attractive to rats.
Effectiveness of rat trapping depends on type, bait, and location. But the greatest of these is location.
Rats are attracted to areas where they sense other rats have been. An attic, once infested with rats, will continue to be attractive to future rodents until a thurough decontamination of the insulation is performed.