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Rats and mice plague homeowners and businesses throughout the country. From rural areas to urban cities, rodents are ever-present, always amongst us, and the best approach is a cooperative effort to rodent management. The more people and entities consistently involved in strategic rodent control measures, the more effective our efforts will be.
Before beginning any rodent treatment program, it is critical to properly identify which type of rodent is present so that an appropriate treatment strategy can be developed.
Mice and rats have a rapid rate of reproduction along with brief life spans, short gestation periods, and fast maturation. For this reason, populations of rats and mice left unaccounted for can quickly explode into hundreds or thousands of rodents. Mice reach sexual maturity and can begin mating in as little as 5 weeks. Female mice can produce up to 8 litters each year, resulting in as many as 56 newborn mice. Rats can reach sexual maturity in as few as 8 weeks, producing up to 7 litters each year. With 8-12 offspring per litter, a female rat can produce as many as 84 newborns each year under ideal conditions.
Most commonly, encounters of rats and mice in the United States are either house mice, norway rats, or roof rats. Each has their own set of characteristics and habits, with different resolution tactics necessary.
Most people have a pretty good idea when they encounter what appears to be a rat or mouse. Without some specific education or training however, you may not be able to determine what species of rat you might be dealing with, or if what you're seeing is a juvenile rat or a mouse. Although many similarities do exist, there are also some striking differences that can help quickly distinguish rats from mice. Because the behaviors and tendencies of mice is different from that of rats, proper identification is critical to implementing an effective rodent control program.Length: Mice are typically 12-20 cm long (including the tail), whereas adult rats may exceed 40 cm in length.
Weight: Mice 15-30 grams. Rats weight considerably more.
Color: Mice are typically brownish, grayish, or whitish. Rats generally have an oily or greasy coat of brown, black, gray, or white.
Head: Mice have a more pointed, triangular snout with long whiskers. Mice also have large, floppy ears. Rats have a snout that is noticeably more blunt than mice.
Tail: Tails of mice are typically long, thin, and hairy. Rat tails are also longer, but are thicker and hairless.
Fecal Droppings: Mice typically produce 40-100 droppings per day. Rats produce an average of 20-50 droppings per day.
Norway Rat Body: Thick, heavy body 7-10 inches long and weighing 10-20 ounces.
Norway Rat Ears: Small, short ears will not extend over the eyes if bent forward.
Norway Rat Eyes: Norway rats have small eyes with poor vision and color blindness. They primarily see light, shades, and movement.
Norway Rat Tail: The Norway Rat tail is shorter than the head and body combined, usually 6-9 inches long. Tail tends to be darkish on top and lighter underneath.
Norway Rat Snout: Norway rats have a blunt snout or nose, with a highly acute sense of smell.
Norway Rat Color: Norway Rats are typically gray to grayish-brown in color, but coloration may vary to include blackish or reddish-brown. Norway rats can also be completely black. The belly or underside of Norway Rats is gray to off-white.
Preferred Food Sources: As omnivores, Norway Rats will readily eat almost any human foods, including meats, grains, fish, fruits, and vegetables. They consume up to an ounce of food and water each day.
Norway Rat Droppings: Norway Rat droppings are soft, dark deposits up to 3/4" long, with blunted ends.Norway Rat Distribution: Norway Rats are widespread throughout the United States and Canada.
Signs of Infestation: In addition to live rat sightings, evidence of Norway Rats may include the presence of fecal droppings, urine stains, characteristic odors, gnaw marks, and rub marks along areas frequently traveled.
Roof Rat Body: Roof Rats have a slender, narrow body 6-8 inches long and weighing 6-12 ounces.
Roof Rat Ears: Roof Rats have larger ears that will extend over the eyes if bent forward.
Roof Rat Eyes: Roof Rat eyes are large, with poor vision and color blindness. They primarily see light, shades, and movement.
Roof Rat Tail: The Roof Rat tail is longer than the head and body combined, usually 7-10 inches long. Roof Rat tails are also hairless.
Roof Rat Snout: Roof Rats have a pointed snout, with a highly acute sense of smell.
Roof Rat Color: Roof Rats are typically black to brownish-gray in color, with a light gray or white belly.
Preferred Food Sources:As omnivores, Roof Rats will readily eat seeds, grains, dried fruits, and vegetables. They consume up to an ounce of food and water each day.
Roof Rat Droppings: Roof Rat droppings are soft, dark deposits up to 1/2" long, with pointed ends.Roof Rat Distribution: Roof rats are best suited to warm, coastal climates throughout the U.S.
Signs of Infestation:In addition to live rat sightings, evidence of Roof Rats may include the presence of fecal droppings, urine stains, characteristic odors, gnaw marks, and rub marks along areas frequently traveled.
House Mouse Body: The House Mouse body is small, slender, and characteristically pear-shaped usually 2-4 inches long and weighing up to 1 ounce.
House Mouse Ears: House Mice have large ears in relation to their bodies, with excellent hearing ability.
House Mouse Eyes: House mice have small, protruding eyes with object recognition up to about 10 feet away. House mice are also color blind.
House Mouse Tail: The House Mouse tail is usually 3 to 4 inches long and longer than the head and body combined.
House Mouse Color: House Mice are typically gray to grayish-brown in color with a lighter underside.
Preferred Food Sources:House mice are omnivores that prefer feeding on seeds, but will also feed on fruit, vegetables, grains, and meats.
House Mouse Droppings: House Mouse droppings are about 1/4" long with pointed ends.House Mouse Distribution: House Mice are widespread throughout the United States and Canada.
Signs of Infestation:In addition to live mice sightings, evidence of House Mice may include the presence of fecal droppings, urine stains, characteristic odors, and gnaw marks.
Rats and mice can be especially concerning because of their propensity to nest in many locations both indoors and outdoors, and the health risks associated with their presence. Before beginning your rodent inspection, be sure you've got a bright flashlight, a pair of gloves, and a bump hat if you plan on inspecting areas such as attics or crawlspaces. If inspecting enclosed spaces, you may also want a quality respirator to to protect against breathing any contaminants that may become airborne from the disturbance of rodent feces.
If you're inspecting for rodents, it's a near certainty that you've seen, heard, or smelled something that has given you reason for concern. Use those context clues as a starting point for where to begin looking, and then extend your search outward from there.
Not surprisingly, rodent activity is often found in and around kitchens due to the proximity to ample food and water. Look inside pantries or other areas where foodstuffs may be stored, paying specials attention to seeds, grains, dried fruits, and things like pet food. Empty all food items from in order to inspect beneath and behind. Check bags and boxes for any evidence of chewing through. As you're moving items around, be on the lookout for concentrations of rodent droppings, as this will provide valuable insights as to where they may be nesting, feeding, accessing, or traveling.
Inspect beneath and behind all appliances. Refrigerators, ovens, and dishwashers may provide ideal harborage for rats and especially mice, and inspecting these areas may also uncover gaps or entry points around plumbing or utility lines.
Empty all cabinets and drawers. In addition to possible finding live rodents, you may also find evidence such as droppings or gnawing. Remember, any evidence discovered during your inspection will improve the quality and effectiveness of your eventual treatment strategy.
Depending upon where you live and which rodents you may be susceptible to, attic spaces may be more or less likely to be a contributing factor. When dealing with Roof Rats, for instance, attics commonly serve as the primary or initial point of entry. You'll want to look for rodent droppings, tunnels or holes, runways, and urine markings. Keep in mind that rodents generally use the same sets of travel routes in a given environment, so insulation will usually be matted down where activity is most prevalent.
If you've got rolled insulation, pull back the insulation in as many areas as possible in order to inspect beneath. Rodents love to nest in these areas, and you may be fortunate enough to discover a rodent nest that could speed up the resolution process. Inspect also pipes, electrical wires, and ductwork for signs of gnawing or any indication that anything has been compromised.
Step 5: Inspect Basements & Crawlspaces
Much like attics may provide many potential points of entry for roof rats, crawlspaces can be of similar concern. Take a close look inside the crawlspace for evidence of rodents and spots that might lend themselves to rodent intrusion.
How To Get Rid of Rats & Mice: Treatment & Prevention GuideRats and mice can be a pervasive, persistent nuisance, and long-term control seldom happens on accident. Effective, lasting rodent control almost always involves a combined process of interior trapping, exterior baiting, habitat modification, and exclusion, with no one element necessarily being more essential than another. All are critical components of effective rodent population management.
Pest Supply HQ's step-by-step guide for rodent control provides a general outline for how to deal with rats or mice.
Mice are commonly found in residential kitchens, and it's always a good idea to begin with a comprehensive inspection to see if a nest can be located. Be sure to look in cabinets and pantries where food items are stored, as well as beneath and behind appliances such as ovens or refrigerators. Before starting to move things around and disturb the area, consider placing several glue board sticky traps on the floor so as to catch scurrying mice in the event they begin to scatter.
For rats, start by pre-baiting a series of snap traps with raisins or other dried fruits or nuts. During the pre-baiting period (typically 3-5 days), you will place unset, baited traps in the environment to allow the rats to be accustomed to feeding. Once you've established feeding, you can then set the traps. As with mice, be aggressive in your rat trapping approach in order to try to knock out the entire active population with the first round of trapping. Depending on their connectivity to the outdoors, that may or may not be possible.
When placing rat traps, pay attention to indicators as to where they may be nesting, entering, traveling, burrowing, gnawing, and feeding and look to place traps in proximity to these area. In attics, runways may include along utility lines or other conduits which may include grease marks or rub stains from the bodies of rats. You may also notice burrow holes in insulation that provide an indication as to their travel routes.
After the interior population of rats and mice have seemingly been eliminated, it's time to turn up the intensity outside the home. (In some instances of heavy interior rodent activity, exterior baiting for rats and mice may begin at the same time as the interior trapping). Remember, the mice and rats inside the structure are coming from the environment outside. So while the short-term rodent relief is brought about through interior trapping and removal, long-term rodent relief will be brought about by efforts on the outside.
Rodent baiting is designed to eliminate active populations of rats and mice in the environment around your home in the immediate term and prevent them from Rodent Baitingregenerating their populations over time. A properly executed rodent reduction program includes strategic placement of rodenticides in a way that intercepts newly introduced rats and mice as a means of population control. By maintaining low or non-existing levels of rodents around the exterior, the likelihood of rodent intrusion inside the structure becomes significantly less.
Rodenticides (rodent baits / poisons) come in many different formulations for use in different applications. In most environments, rodenticide bait blocks housed in tamper-resistant bait stations may be an ideal baiting option. Keep in mind that rodent baits are generally sold separately from the bait stations they will need to be housed in. Make sure that the rodenticide you choose fits properly inside your bait station of choice. Some bait stations have built-in anchors that prevent tampering from children or pets. Others may need to be secured for safety purposes.
Now that you have eliminated the initial populations of rats and mice inside the structure and set up your rodent reduction program around the outside, it's time to turn your attention to the environmental conditions that might be contributing to the presence of rodents. Pay special attention to eliminating any potential rodent harborage areas, including piles of brush or other debris, trash, wood piles, heavy foliage, traps, or other areas that may provide shelter. It is important to keep all bushes, trees, and shrubs trimmed so as not to come in direct contact with any part of the structure or the roofline above. Certain rodents, such as roof rats, are prolific climbers and will use any points of connectivity to go back and forth. By disrupting their habitat and minimize possible nest sites, rodents will be less likely to choose your property as their home.
The final step in getting rid of rats and mice and keeping them out of your home is another comprehensive inspection to determine potential points of entry (as a reminder, a quality rodent inspection is also the very first step in the process as well). If you are able to identify potential or likely points of entry, these areas should be sealed with impenetrable materials that rodents will be unable to gnaw through and will stand up to environmental conditions over time.
Keep in mind that rats can squeeze their way through an opening as small as a quarter, and mice through an opening about the size of a dime. Because of this, sealing off ALL conceivable, potential points of entry may or may not be practical, depending up on the age, construction, and condition of the home. Seek to identify and correct any prevailing conditions that may be readily apparent, as any reduction in potential points of rodent entry is helpful.
An important note about rodent exclusion, or mouse proofing: sealing potential rodent entry points without incorporating the other 3 steps in this process is unlikely to deliver positive, lasting rodent protection. Without removing the rodents inside, taking aggressive, ongoing measures to reduce rodent populations outside, and modifying the surrounding habitat to make it as inhospitable as possible, battling rats or mice is likely to become a losing fight.