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Check out some of the unique characteristics of common pests in our area. Send us a photo of your pest for better identification.
The black rat (Rattus rattus), also known as ship rat, roof rat, house rat, Alexandrine rat, and old English rat is a common long-tailed rodent of the genus Rattus in the subfamily Murinae (murine rodents). The species originated in tropical Asia and spread through the Near East in Roman times before reaching Europe by the 6th century and spreading with Europeans across the world. Today it is again largely confined to warmer areas, having been supplanted by the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) in cooler regions.
Black rats are considered omnivores and eat a wide range of foods, including seeds, fruit, stems, leaves, fungi, and a variety of invertebrates and vertebrates. They are generalists, and thus not very specific in their food preferences, which is indicated by their tendency to feed on any meal provided for cows, swine, chickens, cats, and dogs. They are similar to the tree squirrel in their preference of fruits and nuts.
The Norway (Rattus norvegicus), also known as ratbrown rat, common rat, sewer rat, Hanover rat, Brown Norway rat, Norwegian rat, or wharf rat, is one of the best known and most common rats. One of the largest muroids, it is a brown or grey rodent with a body up to 25 cm (10 in) long, and a similar tail length. The male weighs on average 350 g (12 oz) and the female 250 g (9 oz).
Thought to have originated in northern China, this rodent has now spread to all continents, except Antarctica, and is the dominant rat in Europe and much of North America making it the most successful mammal on the planet after humans. Indeed, with rare exceptions, the brown rat lives wherever humans live, particularly in urban areas.
The house mouse (Mus musculus) is a small rodent and one of the most numerous species of the genus Mus. As a wild animal, the house mouse mainly lives associated with humans, causing damage to crops and stored food. The house mouse has been domesticated as the pet or fancy mouse, and as the laboratory mouse which is one of the most important model organisms in biology and medicine. It is by far the most commonly used genetically altered laboratory mammal.
House mice usually run, walk, or stand on all fours, but when eating, fighting, or orienting themselves, they rear up on their hind legs with additional support from the tail – a behaviour known as “tripoding”. Mice are good jumpers, climbers, and swimmers, and are generally considered to be thigmotactic, i.e. usually attempts to maintain contact with vertical surfaces. Mice are mostly crepuscular or nocturnal; they are averse to bright lights. The average sleep time of a captive house mouse is reported to be 12.5 hours per day.
Squirrels belong to a large family of small or medium-sized rodents called the Sciuridae. The family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots (including woodchucks), flying squirrels, and prairie dogs. Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa and have been introduced to Australia. Squirrels are first attested in the Eocene, about forty million years ago, and are most closely related to the mountain beaver and to dormice among living species.
Squirrels cannot digest cellulose, so they must rely on foods rich in protein, carbohydrates, and fats. In temperate regions, early spring is the hardest time of year for squirrels, because buried nuts begin to sprout and are no longer available for the squirrel to eat, and new food sources have not become available yet. During these times, squirrels rely heavily on the buds of trees. Squirrels’ diets consist primarily of a wide variety of plants, including nuts, seeds, conifer cones, fruits, fungi, and green vegetation.
Chipmunks are small squirrel-like rodents of the genus Tamias. They are native to North America and Asia. Depending on species, chipmunks can be gray to reddish-brown in color with contrasting dark and light stripes on the sides of their face and across their back and tail. They range in size from 18.5 to 21.6 cm. (7.2 to 8.5 in.) to 28 cm. (11 in.). Chipmunks generally gather food on the ground in areas with underbrush, rocks, and logs, where they can hide from predators like hawks, foxes, coyotes, weasels, and snakes.
Chipmunks feed on insects, nuts, berries, seeds, fruit, and grain which they stuff into their generous cheek pouches and carry to their burrow or nest to store. Chipmunks hibernate, but instead of storing fat, they periodically dip into their cache of nuts and seeds throughout the winter. Ranging from Canada to Mexico, they are generally seen scampering through the undergrowth of a variety of environments from alpine forests to shrubby deserts. Some dig burrows to live in, complete with tunnels and chambers, while others make their homes in nests, bushes, or logs.