Norway Rats are one of two rat nuisance species commonly found in Atlanta. Roof rats are dark and found on roofs, power lines and treetops.
Norway Rats are lighter in color, larger, and well-known for burrowing. In the wild, they burrow in riverbanks and under trees. In neighborhoods, they burrow into basements and under crawl spaces. Norway rats are nocturnal, doing most of their feeding from dusk until dawn.
Norway rats are an invasive species that has made its way from their original home in Eurasia to almost every corner of the globe. These large rodents are great climbers and made their way around the world with the shipping industry. It is easy for them to climb up and down ship’s anchor ropes, which has brought them around the world. From there, they have inhabited most everywhere that people can be found.
These prodigious breeders can populate an area very quickly. Though a single rat lives only 2-3 years in the wild, they can have litters of 2-14 (with an average of 7) every six weeks or so. Young rats reach sexual maturity at 5 weeks old. Though they can breed year-round if temperatures and food sources are stable, they tend too slow down during winter and summer months and have two main breeding pushes in the spring and fall.
Norway rats are group nesters and can create large tunnel systems near food sources. As they are omnivores, they will gravitate toward any food source that is easy to find and eat. This includes trash, chicken feed, and food pantries. They prefer access to regular sources of grain. When they take up residence near a chicken coop, a favorite location, they may also eat the eggs and young chicks. A pack of rats can even eat larger barnyard animals like lambs and piglets.
In neighborhoods, rats will tend to find a central location near a home that has good basement or crawl space access and plenty of cover to hide beneath when they move in and out at night. At times, a large rat colony can create a network of tunnels that is so extensive that it can threaten the stability of your home’s foundation.
The Norway Rat thrives in urban areas throughout eastern United States and metro Atlanta. They prefer to take shelter in rocky areas, retaining walls and under bushes along houses and other buildings. Some dig burrows to live in, complete with passages, dens and chambers.
Rat control in Atlanta and elsewhere is a strategy of multiple parts. It is most successful when done with a professional. It requires assessing the problem, both the food access and the living conditions where the rat has taken residence. A wildlife elimination expert can help you to determine where the rats are eating and living.
The first step is to eliminate the food source for the rats to the extent possible. Chicken feed and trash may need to be relocated into airtight, metal containers. While some very thick plastics can work, rats can chew through many plastics and woods and you need to be careful when using them for storage. Trash cans should also be assessed for the ability to enter them.
The second step is to assess habitat. A professional will determine where the rats are living and how they are getting in and out. They typically will have more than one entrance and exit. Depending on the time of year, exclusion methods may be the quickest way to remove them from the area. If they are unlikely to have a litter inside, exclusion devices are one-way gates that will help to allow rats out but not let them back in. Once the rats are sufficiently removed, the damage to the area can be assessed and fixed. This can include chewed wiring, wood, and insulation as well as removing disease-carrying urine and feces from the area.
Once the rats are excluded from the area, trapping and baiting strategies are usually used to prevent the rats from going next door or starting over in your outbuildings. Rats are notoriously shy of new things, which makes trapping and baiting tricky. Professionals understand the way that a rat moves and the best locations for these traps.
Poison baiting is a common DIY method to get rid of rats, but it has some drawbacks and should be used with care. Putting out poison can cause unintentional poisoning problems for young children, pets, and other wildlife. They may eat not only the poison itself but also the dead animal with the poison inside. This makes it important to work with an experienced professional who can help to mitigate these problems or let you know when it’s not a good situation for using rat poison.