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  • USA Wildlife Removal Education Guide - Biology of Black Rat

Biology of Black Rat

The black rat (Rates rattus,) has also been called a ship rat, roof rat, & old English rat, among other names. It is a long-tailed rodent that originated in Asia, but is found in almost all parts of the world today. The black rat prefers warmer areas, but is highly adaptable, and will seek shelter in natural (wooded areas) and unnatural (homes and buildings) areas. It is larger and more aggressive than its brown cousin is, but is more susceptible to cold and has a more limited diet than they do as well. Black rats are, by and large, omnivores. They are a serious danger to farmers because they will eat a wide range of agricultural crops, seeds, and feed. A large enough population of black rats can decimate afield of crops, or contaminate a barn full of feed and hay.



A typical black rat is 5.02–7.19 in long, including its tail, and weighs 4–12 oz when fully grown. Despite its name, the black rat is usually not black. Its coat is usually really dark brown to light brown with a lighter underside. In the wild black rats prefer to nest in burrows made from the ground litter (leaves twigs etc.) found on forest floors. In urban settings, they like the attics and upper floors of buildings, making nests from found litter, shredded paper, and insulation. Black rats can carry a number of diseases like bubonic plague, typhus, salmonella, and toxoplasmosis. They are also usually pest ridden, carrying fleas, and lice. In the wild, their natural predators are owls, and cats of all sizes.

They have also been a tasty meal for coyotes, feral dogs, and other predator birds. These invasive pests are hard to get rid of once they move in. consult with your local professionals on ways to keep your home from being overrun. Keeping your yard free of clutter, yard debris, standing water, and trash will help deter these pests. You should keep all garbage in sealed containers, and pick up outside pet food and feed. Routinely check your home and building for cracks and holes that would allow black rats a way in to your home. Black rats are more interested in living in their natural habitat than in your home, but will always take advantage of food, water, and safe shelter.

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