Rats and Mice


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Meet the black and Norway rats, the most feared of all rodents. They are aggressive, omnivorous, adaptable, and prolific animals. With their highly developed senses and their ability to gnaw, climb, jump, or burrow, they easily gain entrance to places inaccessible to many other small animals. Black and Norway rats cause enormous damage, destroying or contaminating large quantities of valuable poultry, game, crops, and stored grain. They are believed to harbor or transmit more than 20 diseases, including bubonic plague, rabies, typhus, and tularemia. Rat-borne diseases have killed more people than have all the wars ever fought.

The black rat (also called the ship rat), an excellent climber and jumper, is common and widespread in the South and along both coasts. They will nest in upper stories of buildings as well as trees and vines. We suspect black rats are responsible for far more outages in urban areas than anyone realizes.

The Norway rat, also known as barn, brown, sewer, or wharf rat, is larger and much more aggressive. Unlike the black rat, the Norway rat digs burrows of long, branching tunnels with specialized rooms and is an skillful swimmer and diver. It has proved to be more adaptable than the black rat in temperate regions, especially in urban areas. Like the black rat, it is omnivorous, but it is more likely than the black rat to eat whatever animals it can. It catches fish easily and may feed on mice, poultry, and young lambs and pigs. It may even attack larger animals, including humans. When both species live in the same area, they occupy different levels. In a building, for example, the Norway rat tends to occupy the lower levels, while the black rat lives on the upper floors.

The house mouse is indeed a world traveler and humans' most constant companion. They are found in every inhabited spot on earth, and like rats, the house mouse can transmit diseases. What food they don't eat, they will contaminate with their droppings. They will chew or shred everything in sight and they dearly love the insulation on electrical wire. They have excellent hearing and a keen sense of smell, but are very nearsighted. They can get through openings a small as 3/8 of an inch which is why they are often found in very unexpected places.

While the house mouse is the one people most often see, native wild mice (which belong to a different genus) are much more common in rural areas. Please note: Native wild mice carring the deadly Hantavirus have found throughout the country. Both nesting sites and dead rodents can be health hazards. Proper disposal is essential.

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