The Roof Rat
As the name implies, this rat prefers to dwell in upper areas in and around buildings. It is a sleek, agile animal, well adapted for climbing and moving along narrow overhead wires and ledges. It is also known as the black rat, ship rat and house rat. The roof rat is a native of the arboreal forests from equatorial Southeast Asia. It is speculated this rat arrival to North America on ships anywhere from th 15th or early 16th centuries. Generally the roof rat’s range is restricted to coastal cities, ports and waterways.
To identify this rat there are a few key features to note. The roof rat is about the same total length as the Norway rat, but it’s tail is around 11cm longer than it’s body. It’s snout is longer and this rat has noticibly larger ears. The rat is highly adapted for climbing and the long tail helps aid in balance, a handy feature when trying to gain access to attics and thing tree branches. Generally speaking the roof rat has a sleaker appearance than that of it’s cousin the Norway rat.
A female roof rat typically produces three to four litters, each containing four to eight pups. This is slightly less prolific than the Norway rat. The juveniles reach sexual maturity in about 12 weeks. Peak breading occurs in spring and fall but environmental conditions may allow for breeding all year long. In the wild most roof rats live from 5 to 1.5 years.
Roof rats are often viewed as secret and elusive partly due to their nocturnal nature and nesting habbits. They prefer dense cover, shadows and thick vegitations and as the name implies inhabit areas above our common and daily visual perspective.
Like the Norway rat, the roof rat is an opportunist but in regards to feeding can live more independently of humans. Seeds, nuts, fruits, berries are common food sources as well as mollusks such as slugs and snails when they are abundant.
Because of the roof rats propensity to infest attics and ceiling voids they are a particularily troublesome pest as this is where many important electrical and utility lines are placed. Since they are a gnawing animal, infestations can result in structural damage or even fire. As such roof rats (or any such infestation) should be taken seriously as they can be a real threat to safety of a home or it’s occupants.