Uninvited Seasonal Trick or Treat Roof Rat Residence

David Bennett David Bennett | October 23, 2017 | Fenn, Instructional, Roof Rats

Up On The Roof:  Identifying and Strategies for Eradicating Roof Rats

If you notice that a little rat is getting away from the rat race of the world just  like the James Taylor song, take note:

Don’t be fooled by their cuteness.  The roof rat, otherwise known as the black rat, is a major problem for homeowners, especially now  in autumn, when they are looking for shelter for the winter.  Their cuteness masks a murderous disposition—they are responsible for the eradication of many species of birds in countries like New Zealand.   How do you get rid of them?   The first step is to identify them.

How do you get rid of them?   The first step is to identify them.   First, let’s take a look at where they are in the country.   Terminix released its top 15 cities for roof rats a couple of days ago.

The top 15 cities for roof rat infestations in the United States* are:

  1. Savannah, Ga.
  2. Memphis, Tenn.
  3. Miami, Fla.
  4. Sacramento, Calif.
  5. Fort Myers, Fla.
  6. Los Angeles, Calif.
  7. Tampa, Fla.
  8. Dallas, Texas
  9. San Diego, Calif.
  10. San Francisco, Calif.
  11. Honolulu, Hawaii
  12. Phoenix, Ariz.
  13. Houston, Texas
  14. Jacksonville, Fla.
  15. San Antonio, Texas

Black rat vs. the Norway rat

Roof rats are black and smaller than the Norway rat (or brown rat).   They grow up to 18 inches, and their tails are longer than their bodies.  Their tails can be up to a foot long.  Roof rats have large ears with very little hair and pointy little faces.

Where they nest

Unlike Norway rats, roof rats are good climbers, and nest in rooftops.  They also nest in trees, shrubs, woodpiles, and dense vegetation.   Indoors, they like to nest in upper rooms where heat rises and keeps them warm.  They also like attics, cabinets, ceilings, garages, inside walls and sheetrock, laundry rooms, patios, and pool areas.

What they eat

According to RoofRat.net, roof rats are omnivores, favoring fruit, nuts, bird seed, tree bark and vegetables, but that does not preclude them from eating cat and dog food, ornamental plants, insects, lizards, paper and candle wax, and they also chew through wires, and insulation.

As with any rat, they can spread disease through urine, feces (leaving droppings in the house), and through fleas.

The website states further that “Rat burrows can cause structural damage by undermining the foundations of buildings, roads and walkways, can cause damage by gnawing, damaging plastic and lead pipes, door frames, upholstery, and electric wires, and can cause damage through the destruction and contamination of stored foods.”  For an exhaustive study of roof rats, check out this document from the University of Arizona!

By now you’ve sussed out what you’ve got to do in order to control them.   Place bird feeders away from the house. Clean up rubbish in your yard, move your woodpile away from the house, and seal up any holes or cracks around windows or in the foundation of the house. They can squeeze through holes the size of a nickel.   You’ll generally know they’re around when you discover droppings in cabinets or closets, but you can also sometimes see them walking power lines, and if you leave fruit out on the counter you’ll be able to tell they’re the culprits hollowing out the fruit. You may also see gnaw marks on the insulation of wires.   Your dogs and cats may also act anxious, nosing around at corners or cupboards.  Of course, suggested methods of control are similar to that of Norway rat control—poisons, snap traps, rat zappers placed strategically in the attic, and live traps.  According to various sites, glue pads do not seem to work well for roof rats, so their use is discouraged.   A delicious recipe from RoofRats.net for baiting snap traps or consider industrialized strength humane Fenn traps (like ours!)  is as follows:

Bait snap traps with a mixture most people can make in their own kitchen (dry oats, creamy peanut butter, and nuts or peanuts). Mix the oats and creamy peanut butter together in a bowl until it reaches the consistency of cookie dough. Roll a small “dough ball” in the hands (about the circumference of a quarter). Slip the nut of choice into the middle of the “dough ball.” Re-roll the ball a bit in the hands. Place the “dough ball” (AKA: “bait”) on the lever of the snap trap where the “bait” is designed to rest. Use dental floss to “tie down” or secure the “bait” to the lever (the nut inside the “bait” will keep the dental floss from going completely through). It is important to secure the bait onto the trap’s lever to prolong the time the rat will spend at the trap. Often, the rat is quick enough to evade a lethal snap, hence defeating the trap’s purpose.

Tags: Fenn, Instructional, Pest Control, Roof Rats

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