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Barbara Damrosch

 home’s landscaping

Updating your home’s landscaping is a great way to increase the value of your property and create outdoor spaces for relaxing and entertaining. Unique ideas here will make your garden fit for a king

Landscape design is an independent profession and a design and art tradition, practised by landscape designers, combining nature and culture. In contemporary practice, landscape design bridges the space between landscape architecture and garden design.

Rat Evidence of Intrusion

Rat evidence of intrusion is quite numerous. There are several ways to determine if rats have moved onto your property, or worse, into your home. Read through the following techniques to help you recognize if you have rats living in or on your property by learning more about rat evidence of intrusion.

Rat Evidence of Intrusion- Tracks

While traveling, rats will leave tracks like the image of Norway Rat tracks below. Note the long “finger” like toe prints. Look for tracks along the sides of buildings where rats often burrow, in snow or wet soil. Setting out a light layer of flour on suspect rat pathways will help in identifying the problem, too. Don’t forget to look for tail marks dragging behind the foot prints.

Rat Evidence of Intrusion-Scat

Finding rat scat, poop, droppings, etc. is another method to determine evidence of intrusion. Look for scat in and around feeding areas such as next to your pet’s food, recycle bins and garbage cans and near buildings or areas where you believe they might be living.

Rat droppings are about one half (½) to three-quarter (¾) inches in length and one-quarter (¼) inch in diameter. Fresh droppings will look wet. Older droppings become hard and dull, and droppings that are older than three (3) weeks or so will be become gray and crumbly.

Rat Evidence of Intrusion-Gnawing

Rats chew. Look for gnaw marks on doors and window ledges and in corners. Stored building materials may show evidence of gnaw marks, too. Rats will gnaw through walls to gain entry. Look for entry holes that are two (2) inches or larger.

Gnaw marks from rats will resemble two (2) parallel marks that are about 1/8” across.

Rat Evidence of Intrusion-Burrows and Runs

Rats are creatures of habit consequently they will use the same pathways over and over again making them easy to spot. Look for wear marks and burrow mounds next to buildings under bushes or even in your garden.

Rat Evidence of Intrusion-Smudge Marks

Smudge marks are often left behind along areas where rats regularly travel. They are caused by oil and dirt rubbing off their fur. Look for smudge marks along rafters, pipes and walls.

Rat Evidence of Intrusion-Sounds

Rats make various sounds including the sounds made by gnawing and climbing as well as squeaks and fighting sounds. Listen for evidence of rat sounds during the night when the animals are most active.

Rat Evidence of Intrusion-Nests

Everybody needs a home, even a rat. Evidence of rat intrusion is finding a rat’s nest. Look for nests outside under woodpiles, bushes, vines and tall grasses. They may also be found under rocks, in cars, in building insulation and near furnaces in basements. The nests themselves are made of bits of any kind of material they may come across including insulation, string, feathers, etc. formed into a dish similar to a birds nest. Roof rats will nest either in trees or in the higher floors and attics of buildings, whereas Norway rats will nest in the lower areas of buildings.

Rats coexist with human populations and can find can find their way into and onto our property quite easily. They even have the ability to know when we are trying to get rid of them! From the sounds they make as they enter your home to the gnaw marks and scat left behind; there are many different ways to discover rat evidence of intrusion.

Rat Interesting Facts

Rat interesting facts are numerous. They are one of the most hunted, feared and dangerous rodents in North America. As a result there has been a lot of research completed with regard to rats. This section highlights some of the more interesting facts about the rats that live in North America.

  • Rats are exceptionally apprehensive of new things they may find in a well traveled pathway (this makes trapping a more difficult task).
  • Rats won’t let a small barrier like a doorway stop them from getting into a building. They will take whatever route is best:
    They have been known to run along or climb electrical wires, pipes, fences, poles, ropes, cables, vines, shrubs, and trees.
    Rats will even climb vertical surfaces including wood, brick, concrete, weathered sheet metal, and plastic.
  • Rats even use pipes, augers, conveyors, conduit, and underground utility and communications lines to get into a building.
  • Rats have powerful teeth and jaws and will gnaw through most anything. They have been known to chew through window screens, wood, rubber and vinyl, but most interestingly, they can and do gnaw their way though lead, aluminum and even weathered concrete.
  • Rats have continuously growing incisors that grow at the rate of about five (5) inches in a year.
  • Rats are limber and can crawl through or under any opening higher or wider than 1/2 inch!
  • They climb vertical pipes and conduits up to 3 inches in diameter.
  • Rats will brace themselves between a wall and a pipe to climb pipes larger than three (3) inches in diameter to get into a building.
  • Rats can jump from a flat surface up to 36 inches high.
    Rats can even jump sideways as far as 48 inches.
  • Resiliency is no stranger to the rat species. They can fall 50 feet without being seriously injured!
  • Rats will burrow straight down into the ground for at least 36 inches.
  • There is not much a rat can’t reach. They are able to stretch as far as thirteen (13) inches!
  • Water won’t deter rats from their mission. Rats have been known to swim as far as 1/2 mile in open water.
  • Rats travel through sewer drains. It is not uncommon for a rat to gain entry to your home through the toilet. They’d rather pop up in your kitchen sink, but the drains are too small!
  • Rats have a super keen sense of smell and can detect contaminants and poisons in their food at levels as low as 0.5 parts per million.
  • Rats are colorblind.
  • Rats can have up to 20 litters of six (6) to twelve (12) babies in a year!
  • Rat droppings that are all the same size can be a sure sign of only one rat, whereas many different sizes of rat scat may indicate an infestation of a breeding population.
  • Rats have managed to follow the early settlers from Europe and spread very successfully through North America. From prolific breeding behaviors to the ability to scale the outsides of buildings by wedging themselves between poles and walls there are many rat interesting facts.

Rat Diet

Rat diet consists of everything humans eat; i.e. they are omnivorous. They eat all types of growing plants including seeds and nuts, leaves and fleshy fruits, bark and woody stems. They will eat insects, and our meaty leftovers.

Rat Diet-Food

Rats will diet on most anything. This will include meat from pigs and poultry, chicken and bovine. They are quite partial to cat and dog food, too. Anything left unattended in the garbage can is fair game for all species of rat. They find cereal grains most appealing, however, as grains provide much needed nutrients. Fish will be most appreciated as will nuts and water containing lettuce and celery. Rats require about one-half (½) to one (1) ounce of water daily.

Roof rats are quite happy to partake in fruits and berries including avocados, lemons and oranges that are still on the tree. The bitterness of the lemon rind is often taken in with delight, while orange rinds are left hanging with the interior portions of the fruit cleaned out completely. They will finish a meal with slugs and snails.

Rats will generally travel about 150 feet to get to food and have been known to travel upwards of 300 feet to get to food.

Rat Diet-Physical Attributes

The diet of rat is assisted through several physical attributes. These include the ever growing incisors common to all rodents, and an excellent swimming ability. As with all rodents, rats have two (2) front teeth that don’t quit growing. These incisors are always at the ready to gnaw their way through the toughest nut shell or wooden window frame to get to the food most desired by the animal.

Water won’t stand between a rat and its desire to feed on your leftovers! They are built to swim, with lungs that can hold air for extended periods and feet that can propel them through the sewer that leads into your home. The rat has the physical prowess necessary to enter your home and share in your meals!

Rat Diet-Benefits and Detriments to Humans and the Ecosystem

The rat diet has many detriments. Because of their propensity to carry diseases harmful to man, their quest for food can only lead to contaminated food sources for humans. Additionally, because of their reproductive prowess, their populations can get out of hand fast leading to increased reduction of crops and backyard garden fruits.

With so many food choices it is no surprise the there are many detriments to the rat diet.

Rat Habitat

Rat habitat is closely related to human habitats. They can live anywhere we do. In general rats, Norway and Roof, moved over to the United States with the early settlers of the nation. In fact, Norway rats are often referred to as ship rats aptly named for the type of transport that brought them to the US. They are common to most parts of the North American Continent.

Norway rats will be happy to live most anywhere humans do. This includes barns and houses and along riverbanks and streams.

Roof rats are happier higher up and often take up residence in attics and treetops including, much to a grower’s dismay, citrus fields.

Rat Habitat-Range

The range of each variety varies slightly with the Norway rat occurring in the 48 contiguous states of the United States. It is happiest living at lower elevations of the North American continent, but can be located anywhere humans are. Roof rats, on the other hand are more often than not found in the lower half of the eastern coast of the US through the Gulf States and into Arkansas. You can also find them along the Pacific coast of the United States and Canada as well as the Hawaiian Islands.

Home ranges are based on food availability. Rats may live in one area and feed in another. The maximum home range recorded by researchers is about 300 feet from their homestead to the animal’s food source.

Rat Habitat-Nests

Nests of the rat habitats depend on variety of species. Norway rats are burrowers, building their nests underground or at ground level. The diagram below illustrates an underground Norway Rat nest.

Roof Rat nests will be similar to Norway Rats however they will not be at or below ground level. Roof Rats will nest in trees and bushes and attics above ground. Roof rats can be found homesteading in trees and shrubs, attics and upper floors of buildings.

Look for rat nests outside under woodpiles, bushes, vines and tall grasses. Underneath rocks, in cars, in building insulation and near furnaces in basements are also locations where rat nests may be located. They are especially fond of locations near electrical wires where they can travel unencumbered.

Norway rats, also called sewer rats, have been found living in sewers.

The habitat range of the rats is more limited for the Roof Rats whereas the Norway’s are spread throughout the United States. Much like other rodents the habitats that are most utilized by humans remain the best locations for rat habitat.

Rat Benefits & Detriments to Humans and the Ecosystem

Rats are well known for many detriments to humans. At the forefront of these detriments is the fact that rats carry the plague virus. They also carry tetanus, leprosy, trichinosis, and salmonella. This prevalence for disease leads to rats, Norway and Roof, contaminating food sources just by feeding off of them, e.g. your grain and feed stocks.

As far as structural damage rats can do great harm. This includes damage done by gnawing and burrowing in and around foundations for homes and other structures. They will gnaw on electrical wires, wood framing along doorways, windows, and even do damage to metal structures! Rats cause problems to humans by tearing up insulation inside walls for use as nesting materials, too. Woodrats will tear up furniture and mattresses of campers and cars!

Rat Behavior

Rats are nocturnal and very curious. They spend most nights constantly exploring their surroundings. They memorize their pathways that led them food and shelter earlier. Rats are exceptionally apprehensive of new things in they may find in a well traveled pathway (this makes trapping a more difficult task).

Rats are prolific breeders. The time between conception and birth is very short, only 21 to 23 days. Females give birth to six (6) to twelve (12) babies at one time. Once the babies are born the females are ready to conceive again within two (2) days after a litter is born! Breeding itself will become more prevalent in the spring and fall. On average, however, a female rat will give birth to four (4) to six (6) litters per year. Baby rats are born hairless with closed eyes but are nearly independent within three (3) weeks which allows for the mothers to prepare to give birth to another, possibly twelve (12) new babies! These newborns are even ready to breed themselves at three (3) months of age. Rats normally live only to 12 months of age, but some may live as long as eighteen months.

As with most nocturnal animals, the eyesight of rats is less than ideal. They rely primarily on a keen sense of smell, taste, hearing and touch. Their intense sense of smell is what leads these rodents into our homes. Rats are great swimmers and they will follow the scent of your dinner through your drains into the sewer systems where some rats will live. They follow this scent through the pipes and into your home via your toilet! Their long whiskers are used as sensitive tactile sensors. They use them for purposes of travel, detecting walls in the darkness as well as burrow barriers.

Roof rats are more agile climbers while Norway rats are more powerful swimmers and jumpers. This means that while they may live in the same building, Roof rats will occupy the attic areas while Norway rats will be more comfortable in the basement. Despite the fact that they live in close quarters, Norway and roof rats are not friendly. The Norway rat will kill Roof rats that it finds in its territory.

Woodrats are known by many as “pack rats”. They have a tendency to take and hide small shiny objects such as jewelry, forks and spoons.

Rat Physical Appearance

Norway rats are the largest of the introduced species. They can reach lengths of up to 18 inches including the tail. The tail itself ranges in length from six (6) to eight and one half (8 ½) inches and are conspicuously hairless. Brown and black coarse fur covers the majority of the animals with the undersides of the Norway rat are gray to yellow. The overall weight of these animals is only about one (1) pound. The Norway rat has a generally stocky appearance with a blunt nose and shorter ears.

Roof rats are a bit smaller than the Norway rats, save for their ears which are actually long enough to reach their eyes when folded over. Size wise, the Roof rats are much smaller. Weighing in at only one-half (1/2) of a pound. The tail of the Roof rat is longer than that of the Norway rat measuring almost as long as their body. Their coloring is brown with black on top of coarse fur and a belly that is more often than not white in hue. The nose of the Roof rat is pointed.

Young rats are often confused with house mice. To help distinguish between the two (2) take note of the size of the feet. Juvenile rats will present with very large feet in comparison to the rest of their body.

Woodrats are a little smaller than the introduced species of Roof and Norway. They can also be distinguished from them by way of their soft and fine fur, light colored feed and most importantly, their fur covered tails.

Rat Natural History

While woodrats are native to the continent the Roof rat and the Norway rat have been introduced by humans. It is assumed that these rodents traveled over in ships with the early settlers of North America. If you live in Hawaii you may have a problem with Polynesian rats as well.

Norway Rat

Scientific Name: Rattus norvegicus
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Muridae
Genus: Rattus
Species: norvegicus

Rats! Most of North America would prefer not to have rats in their landscaping, homes and other structures, yet a great many people keep them as pets. This may seem to play on the individual preferences of people, but, in fact, the rats kept as pets are not the same species of rodent that moves into your property without signing a lease agreement! The Norway Rat, the Roof Rat and to a smaller extent the Woodrat are the most common pests found living and feeding in our homes and yards.

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