Following are some of the roof rat’s notable characteristics. Although nicknamed the "black rat", this species is dark brown in color. Remember one word: tail. While other rodents in the United States have shorter, fluffy tails, the roof rat has an entirely hairless tail that is longer than its entire body. If there is one way to distinguish the roof rat’s ability from other species, it is their aptitude for climbing. Racing up walls, trees, and electrical wires, these rates are at home above the ground. Very long and quite slender, these rats will range between 14 inches and 19 inches long. Other rats are shorter and broader.

roof rat in a shed


Scientists have concluded that roof rats prefer warmer, more humid climates, and have therefore stayed close to the Gulf of Mexico and Southern Atlantic and Pacific coastlines.

However, in the past ten years, experts have seen rats spreading more inland in Texas and Arizona (most likely due to cargo trucks). Although further from the ocean, the rats have acclimated well and pose a new problem for homeowners in these areas.

As previously mentioned, the roof rat is adept at climbing and will use this skill to get into attics and upper stories of office buildings and homes. The insulation in these buildings is often destroyed as the rats tear at it for nesting material. Unlike other rats, the roof rat species does not enjoy burrowing and will climb things such as trees, garages, house plants woodpiles, garbage cans to find a nesting area off the ground.

In order to gain access to buildings, a roof rat only needs a bottle-cap size hole to squeeze through. Once a roof rat establishes a nest, they will return there during the day, but will most likely travel several miles at night to find fruit and vegetables to eat and store.

Control Or Elimination

Although there are no completely foolproof methods to prevent roof rats coming into your home, there are a few ways to make your dwelling an undesirable place. Here are some tips:

Trees: Dissuade the roof rats from climbing onto your home by keeping your trees and plants well-groomed and a good five feet away from the house. This is especially true with fruit or vegetable plants; keep a safe distance between them and your dwelling–you may even consider setting traps around the trees.

Food: If you own pets or livestock, make sure that the food is securely inside for the night.

Cleanliness: In general, you will need to upkeep your house and yard by not keeping piles of garbage, wood, soil, etc., close to the house. This also includes building maintenance; fix leaks, holes, and tears immediately to prevent them from getting bigger and being an attraction to the rats.

Traps: There are bait and snap traps that can help eliminate the number of roof rats you have. The traps should mirror the rats’ climbing ability by placing them vertically, near electrical wires, on roof beams, or in attics. Poisons should be a last resort as you don’t want the roof rat to wander and die in the attic or walls of your house.


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