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Rats and mice are very upsetting and can cause panic if they enter a home or business. The good news is that neither mice nor rats commonly attack people. However, left unchecked, they can cause damage to homes or buildings by chewing on contents, or on pipes and wires in the structure.

Many times, fleas are also transmitted by the rodents so action should be taken when they are observed. Even if you only see the rodents or their droppings outside, the likelihood that they may try to enter the structure for food or habitat is quite high. Frequently, improper use of traps and baits can cause non-target animals or people to incur injuries.

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“How do I get rid of rats?” Don’t panic – rats rarely bite or attack humans. Only under very rare circumstances will they confront a person. If a rat is cornered, starved, or directly threatened, they may bite. They do spread a variety of diseases both through the fleas they carry and the droppings they leave. Another problem property owners face is how to stop the rats from chewing and biting wires, boxes and bags, especially with food in them.

San Diego County finds two native rat species: Norway Rats and Roof Rats are both very common in Southern California.

Norway rats are the larger of the two types. A full sized adult is 7 to 9.5 inches long and will weigh between 7 and 18 ounces. Thickly built and varying in color from brown to gray or even dirty white, the Norway rat has a blunt snout, small eyes, small ears, and leaves a capsule shaped dropping ¾ to 1 inch long. Although a good climber, he prefers vertical surfaces and is more likely to burrow than his more agile cousin the roof rat. The average litter size is seven to eight babies with an average delivery frequency of three to six times a year. The new rats are capable of reproducing within 2 to 4 months. These rats prefer fatty foods and lots of water but will eat anything if their preferred food source is not available.

Roof or Black Rats are highly successful in warmer regions like East County. They are extremely agile and have been known to climb straight up stucco or brick. A full sized adult is 6 to 8 inches long and weighs between 5 and 9 ounces. They have a slim build and vary in color from gray to black. The snout is pointy and the eyes and ears are large. Droppings are usually ¼ to ½ inch long and pointed rather than blunt. They are more frequently found in trees and burrow far less than Norway rats. The average litter size is six to eight babies with an average delivery rate of three to six times per year. The new rats are capable of reproducing within 4 months. These rats prefer seeds nuts and vegetables and require much less water than Norway rats but will eat anything if their preferred food source is not available.

Movements and ranges of rats vary greatly with each situation. Norway rats will range over a larger area than roof rats. Sometimes an individual rat will range over several acres. Generally, a rat of either species will stay within 100 feet of the nest if possible. Food sources, water sources, and predators all play an important role in determining the range of a given rat.

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