Roof rat is a species of rat that originated from Asia and spread throughout the world via ocean. Roof rat is 40 cm long, and has small and sleek body. It has a long tail, large ears and eyes, and a pointed nose. Also known as the black rat, the roof rat is somewhat similar to Norway rat, except one most easily recognized characteristic that differentiates the two i.e. the tail. The tail of roof rat is hairless, scaly, and longer than the combined length of its head and body, whereas the tail of Norway rat is hairy, has less apparent scales and is shorter in length.
Roof rat sexually matures between two and five months, and produces 4-6 liters per year. This species of rat is exceptional breeder and a female can breed year round, producing 40 new rodents.
Diet and Behavior
Roof rats live in warmer areas like vine cover of fences or buildings, in wood piles or other stored materials. Being agile climbers, roof rats are happy to live in high places such as soffits, overhead garage storage, palm trees, roofs and attics. Roof rats often use trees and utility lines to reach food and to enter buildings. They may also use sewer systems to disperse to new areas. Roof rats are nocturnal and generally begin searching for food shortly after sunset. This species of rodent requires more water in its diet than most other rats and therefore invade house in search of water. In terms of food, roof rats are omnivorous and show preference for grains, fruits, nuts, fruit-producing ornamentals, dates, stored food, vegetables, birdseed in feeders, insects, snails and garbage. These rats also cache considerable amounts of solid food near their nests, which they eat later.
Signs of Roof Rat Infestation
A good indicator of roof rat activity is its droppings, which is 12 to 13 mm long with pointed ends. Another sign of roof rat infestation includes smudge marks along surfaces as well as nests. These marks are produced from the dirt rubbing off the fur of the rodent. The sound in the attic is also one of the most common indications of the presence of roof rats in the house.
Prevention and Control
Some of the effective methods of roof rat control include habitat modification, exclusion, trapping, and poison bait.
The first step in controlling these rats is to modify the breeding area, by making it less suitable and less attractive to roof rats. Roof rats are sensitive to environmental change and a slightest change in habitat may cause them to move from their hiding places. You can adapt following changes to reduce any type of rodent infestation:
Eliminating food sources
Securing garbage in proper containers
Harvesting citrus fruits in a timely manner
Removing attractants such as pet foods, bird feeders and standing water
Trimming or removing ground cover plants
Removing tree limbs that overhang roofs
Roof rats enter homes from pipes, utility wires, garage doors or pet doors. These rats are small in size and are excellent climbers, therefore can pass through any small opening. Some of the measures that can be employed to control rodent infestation are listed below:
Sealing all the 1/2-inch wide or greater openings withconcrete mortar, steel or copper wool.
Covering attic and foundation vents with wire mesh or heavy wire screen.
Using rat guards made from metal sheet to prevent roof rats from climbing trees and walls.
Some of the common traps used to exterminate roof rats include snap tarp and glue board trap.
Snap Trap: It is a wooden, rat-size trap that is effective for roof rats. A variety of foods including peanut butter, nutmeats, fruit, or gumdrops can be used as bait. The trap should be arranged along well-traveled paths used by the rats like overhead beams, pipes, ledges and sills. Since, roof rats prefer to travel off the ground, snap traps can be securely tied horizontally along the fences and tree branches.
Glue Board Trap: This trap is available in several sizes and consists of a plastic base covered with sticky glue. The rats are trapped in glue board in the same way flies are caught in flypaper. When the glue board is placed for several days, it gets covered with dust and insects, and loses its effectiveness. So, the glue board needs to be replaced time and again.
The most effective means of controlling roof rats is by using poison baits. The poisoned rats often use inaccessible areas to die, causing an odor problem in the house and thus, attracting insects. So, you need to be careful while using this control method.
The rodent carcass needs to be removed as soon as it is discovered. This not only protects human but also takes care of the health of non-targeted animals. To pick up carcass, you must wear disposable gloves and discard the carcass along with the gloves in secured, outdoor trash container.