Roof Rats on the Rise - Sutton — Canadian Real Estate Listings & Agents |

Roof Rats on the Rise

04 May 2018

Roof Rats on the Rise

With their large ears, smooth black fur and slender bodies, roof rats look almost cute compared to their hefty, ground-dwelling cousins: the Norway rat. Roof rats (also knows as fruit rats, ship rats and Alexandrian rats) are especially good climbers. They can spend their lives eating and raising their young in the treetops, but they readily adapt to human dwellings. Given the chance, they will build nests in cozy areas such as attics, ceilings, garages, inside a home’s walls, at the back of a laundry room, or any warm crawl space.

Roof rats are similar to squirrels in that they mainly eat nuts and fruits, but as opportunistic omnivores, they will eat pet food, livestock feed, tree bark, prized garden plants, insects and even candle wax. These rodents store stashes of food for the winter, which is another reason they seek out warm, dry shelters.

Water also attracts roof rats. They lap up water from pet bowls, bird baths, eavestroughs and the saucers under potted plants. They can take refreshment from the condensation on air conditioner drip lines and, if they are thirsty enough, they will chew holes in irrigation lines.

A homeowner with an infestation may hear scurrying animals in the ceiling, find droppings around openings to the home and/or detect their odours. It is important to use caution when investigating a possible infestation. Rats can be aggressive when cornered and will bite. Disturbing the droppings by sweeping, or other means can release tiny airborne particles, which can be dangerous.

Rat urine, droppings and saliva can transmit parasites and viruses such as Hantavirus, which killed 248 Americans in the 25-year period from January 1993 to January 2018, according to the Centres for Disease Control. A recent victim was 27-year-old Kiley Lane from New Mexico. In April 2018, after a three-month health struggle involving fever and lung problems, doctors were unable to save her.

If you spot the signs of a rat infestation, contact a professional pest control company. Exterminators typically use protective air masks and will know the best techniques to eliminate the problem. When individuals decide to put out poison bait and traps, they may inadvertently injure pets and beneficial wildlife. Also, the do-it-yourself approach may not eliminate the entire local rat population.

A female roof rat can give birth to as many as 24 pups (babies) in just one year. This means that a population of three females and one or more males can produce up to 72 pups annually. When those pups grow up, they will have babies of their own and the colony grows exponentially. Before you know it, they need their own postal code!

Preventing an infestation is far easier than eradicating one.

Start by removing attractive food and water sources:

- Use a metal screen over your compost bin or invest in a raised tumbler composter

- Use garbage containers with tight-fitting lids

- Avoid leaving pet food in bowls; instead feed pets indoors and only at mealtimes

- Eliminate water sources such as bird baths

- Keep eavestroughs clean to eliminate pools of water

Rats can cause contamination without leaving any visible signs. Be vigilant in protecting food that is for human consumption:

• Store food in glass or metal containers, especially items in a basement or garage

• If you have fruit trees, check for gnaw marks and throw away damaged fruit

• If you raise chickens, seal the coop floor and any openings with a fine wire mesh to protect the animals and their eggs

As good climbers, roof rats can find many ways to access your home:

• Prune back tree branches from within a metre of your home

• Avoid growing shrubs or vines next to your house

• Avoid piling fire wood beside walls (if possible store it under a tarp away from the house)

Roof rats can fit through spaces as small as a nickel in diameter! This makes it more challenging to keep them out of your home, but these are generally successful preventative measures:

• Use caulk to fill in any cracks or crevices around the home

• Place screens over roof vents and attic turbine ventilators

• Install a chimney screen

• Block any openings under sinks, near washers, dryers, dishwashers and water heaters

• Make sure all window screens are in good condition

• Avoid leaving doors open

By keeping roof rats out of your home, you can enjoy them as an important part of the wildlife system instead of as a pest!

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