Roof Rat Identification
Identification and Range:
The Roof Rat (Rattus rattus) is one of two introduced Rats found in
the contiguous 48 states. The Norway Rat is the other species and is
better known because of its widespread distribution. When
distinguishing the Norway Rat from the Roof Rat, pull the tail back
over the body. The tail of the Roof Rat will reach the nose. The tail of
the Norway Rat will not reach beyond the ears.  A third Rat species,
the Polynesian Rat, is present in the Hawaiian Islands but not on
the mainland. rattus rattus is commonly known as the Roof Rat,
Black Rat or Ship Rat. Roof Rats were common on early sailing ships
and apparently arrived in this country by that route. This rodent has
a long record as a carrier of plague.

Three subspecies have been named, generally identified by their fur
1. The Black Rat, R. rattus rattus Linnaeus, is black with a gray belly.
2. The Alexandrine Rat, R. rattus Alexandrinus Geoffroy has an    
agouti (brownish streaked with gray) back and gray belly.
3. The Fruit Rat, R. rattus Frugivorus Rafinesque, has an agouti  
back and white belly.

Crossbreeding between subspecies has often occurred, resulting in
unreliability in identification by color. However, Roof Rats do not
cross with Norway Rats.

Roof Rats range along the lower half of the East Coast and
throughout the Gulf States and upward into Arkansas. They also
exist along the Pacific Coast and are found on the Hawaiian Islands.
The Roof Rat is apparently not quite as adaptable as the Norway Rat,
which is one reason it has not spread throughout the country. Its
geographic distribution suggests it is more suited to tropical and
semi-tropical climates. Occasionally isolated populations are
reported from areas not within their normal distribution range;
however, these instances are rare. Most of the Great Plains states are
free of Roof Rats but infestations can occur.

Roof Rats are more aerial than Norway Rats in their habitat selection
and often will live in trees or on vine covered fences. Landscaped
residential or industrial areas provide good habitat, as does
vegetation of riverbanks and streams. They will often move into
sugarcane and citrus groves. Roof Rats are sometimes found living
in or around poultry or other farm buildings as well as in industrial
sites where food and shelter are available. Being agile climbers, Roof
Rats frequently enter buildings from the roof or accesses near utility
lines which they use to travel from area to area. They have been
found in sewer systems, but this is not very common.

Feeding Habits:
The food habits of Roof Rats resemble those of tree squirrels, since
they both like a wide variety of fruit and nuts. They also feed on a
variety of ornamental and native plant materials. Like the Norway
Rat, they are omnivorous and will feed on most anything if
necessary. Roof Rats usually require water daily, though their local
diet may provide an adequate amount if high in water content.

Feeding Behavior:
Roof Rats usually begin searching for food shortly after sunset. If the
food is in an exposed area and too large to be eaten quickly, yet not
too large to be moved, they will usually carry it to a hiding place
before eating it. Many Rats will hoard considerable amounts of solid
food, which they may or may not eat later. When necessary, Roof
Rats will travel considerable distances for food. They can often be
seen at night running along overhead utility lines. They may live in
trees or attics and climb down to a food source. This is important
from the standpoint of control, for traditional baiting or trapping on
the ground or floor may intercept very few Roof Rats. Roof Rats have
a strong tendency to avoid new objects in their environment and
this can influence control efforts. These Rats may take several days
before they will approach a bait station or trap.

Reproduction and Development:
Born in a nest about 21 to 23 days after conception, the young Rats
are naked and their eyes are closed. The 5 to 8 young in the litter
develop rapidly, growing hair within a week. When they are 9 to 14
days old, their eyes open and they begin to explore for food and
move about near their nest. In the third week they begin to take
solid food. The number of litters depends on the area and varies with
nearness to the limit of their climatic range, availability of
nutritious food, density of the local Rat population and age of the
Rat. The young may continue to nurse until 4 or 5 weeks old.
Young Rats generally cannot be trapped until about 1 month old. At
about 3 months of age they are completely independent of the
mother and are reproductively mature. In tropical or semitropical
regions, the breeding season may be nearly year-round. Usually the
peaks in breeding occur in the spring and fall.

Rats see poorly, relying more on smell, taste, touch and hearing.
They are considered to be colorblind, responding only to the degree
of lightness and darkness of colors.  Roof Rats also have an excellent
sense of balance. They use their tails for balance while traveling
along overhead utility lines and are very agile climbers.

Contact Assassin Exterminating today for all your rat
and mouse removal needs.
Roof Rat
Roof Rat on Pipe
Roof Rat
Agile Roof Rat
Roof Rat in Natural Habitat
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