Garden Word of the Day
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Did you know that a group of rats is called a mischief? Rats can be destructive, disease-carrying pests. They can also make fascinating pets. This post is not about rats as pets.
Rats as disease carriers
Rats and the fleas that feed on them are vectors of disease. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists 11 diseases directly transmitted by rodents, including plague, and 15 diseases, including typhus and hemorrhagic fever, indirectly caused by rodents. “Plague is a disease that both roof and Norway rats can carry, but in California it is more commonly associated with ground squirrels, chipmunks, and native wood rats,” according to Wikipedia. These diseases are spread through handling live or dead rats, handling food contaminated by rat urine or feces, or coming into contact with surfaces territorially marked with rat urine. If rats are present, infection is possible.
Common rat species
There are dozens of different types of rats but the two most common to California are Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) and roof rats (Rattus rattus). They are also called brown and black rats, respectively, but these names are misleading.
Roof rats are medium-sized with a tail that is longer than the head and body combined. Roof rats prefer attics, trees, mature shrubs, and power lines. Roof rats eat nuts, berries, fruits, snails and slugs, avocado and citrus. A roof rat will hollow out an orange or eat the peel off of a lemon or a lime, leaving the fruit hanging on the tree in each case. A female roof rat can produce up to 40 offspring each year.
Norway rats are larger and they prefer to burrow. They are often found in sewers, next to building foundations, and under trash containers. Norway rats prefer meat, fish, nuts, grain and some fruits. A single female can produce up to 20 young a year.
How to get rid of rats
It is far easier to control a rat population while it is small. Rat control includes monitoring, sanitation, exclusion, and trapping:
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