Roof Rat, Rattus rattus

DIET: Extremely varied.

PREDATORS: Owls, hawks, coyotes, foxes, snakes, cats, raccoons, other rats, etc.

HABITAT: Anywhere with cover and a food source

CONSERVATION STATUS: Least concern

WHERE TO OBSERVE IN SB:  In bushes and vine-covered fences almost anywhere, including backyards and parks.

LEARN MORE:

Rodent-proofing your chicken coop

The roof rat is a common backyard rodent, especially near the coast.  These rats are good climbers and are often seen scampering along tree branches or fence rails.

Appearance

Roof rats are 6 to 8 inches long excluding their tail, which is at least as long.  They have beady eyes, large ears, and pointed noses.  Their fur can be grey or brown. 

Role in Food Chain

The food sources of roof rats are numerous and varied.  They can eat almost anything we can, along with garbage, animal droppings, pet food, and even other rats.  They choose their food sources based on what is available. 

Roof rats are preyed upon by owls, hawks, snakes, coyotes, foxes, cats, and many other animals.

Habitat and Range

Roof rats are found in Europe, Asia, lower Africa, and the East and West coasts of the United States.  They can live in a variety of habitats, including cities and backyards.  Wherever there is food, there are rats.  The nests of roof rats are usually located above the ground, such as in bushes.

Behavior

Roof rats are mainly nocturnal, although they may be seen during the day if disturbed, hungry, or sick, or if there is a daytime food source.  They are agile climbers and often climb to find food, such as fruit from trees. 

Relationship with Humans

Many people think of rats as dirty, ugly, and disease-ridden, and consider them pests, although the typical backyard rodent population doesn't usually match these stereotypes.  Some backyards, however, have large infestations of rats, which can become unsanitary.  These kinds of infestations happen when there is a major attractant, such as a chicken coop that isn't rodent-proof, in the backyard or neighborhood.  The problem can usually be remedied by removing cover and food sources.

 

How to Observe Roof Rats

Go outside in your yard at night and look for rats scurrying along fence rails.  You'll likely see a few.  If you have fruit trees, look for rats there- they like to climb trees to find food.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Image credits: Roof rat- Alex O'Neal, Creative Commons.