A rodent is a type of mammal characterized by large incisors on the upper and lower jaws. In California and in the field of pest control, most people will think of a mouse or rat when asked to identify a rodent. Rodents can be a pernicious and pervasive pest because they are relatively large, reproduce quickly, target food supplies, and carry many diseases that affect people. A rodent is characterized by its teeth, and people should be wary of being bitten. Many rats and mice carry potent diseases such as rat-bite fever, Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, and Lassa fever. Any and all bites need to receive professional medical attention immediately, and a dead rodent must be handled with gloves. In Escondido, the most common rodents are the Norway rat, the roof rat, and the common house and deer mouse.
The Norway and roof rats are two introduced rodent species that reproduce quickly and spread disease. Their teeth are extremely strong, and some rats can even bite through piping and construction materials in search of food. These rats range in color from brown to black to gray, and they have long scaly tails which form roughly half of their body. Each rodent is between 12-20in. long and nocturnal, meaning they will wander around at night to find food. Rats are a rodent filled with disease, partially from their bite and partially from the fleas which come with them. Rats will hunt for food in groups and have been observed returning to the same food source until it runs out. They are voracious eaters and will feast on most of the same foods that humans do. If a property owner sees a rat, they should not approach it and certainly should not handle it without protective gloves.
The second most common rodent in California is the mouse, specifically the house and deer mouse. These mice are much smaller than rats and typically measure between 6-8in. long, including their tails. They have large ears, small beady eyes, and fur which ranges between brown, white, and gray. Mice reproduce even faster than rats and have between 24-72 pups each year. Mice are also nocturnal and will search for food at night, although they typically eat at sundown and sunup. Like rats, mice are a rodent which carry many diseases and should not be handled without gloves. If a property owner sees one, they should avoid touching it and should call a pest control company. Mice primarily eat cereal grains, but will eat other foods if they find them. Home and business owners should be wary of open packages if they think they have a rodent infestation.
Rodent infestations are dangerous because rodents reproduce quickly and carry diseases that can harm and even kill humans. Their feces and teeth are unclean and dangerous, and property owners should avoid contact with rodents if possible. Home and business owners who suspect they have a rodent infestation should call a pest control professional immediately to discuss treatment options and receive a full inspection of the property.
Rat poison is a form of rodenticide designed to kill rats. Many rat poisons are designed to be effective after a rat has ingested several doses or a few hours after a rat eats some of the toxin. Rats, like other rodents, lack the ability to vomit substances which make them sick and thus have a form of bait shyness. Instead of eating a large amount of a new food, many rats will instead eat a little and then wait to see if it makes them sick. Other rats will notice this behavior and will also wait to eat some of the food. If the rat who ingested the material dies, then the others won’t touch it. Many makers of rat poison keep this in mind and thus create certain toxins designed to be slow-acting yet effective.
Rat poison falls into two different groups: those that use anticoagulants and those which use non-anticoagulants. Anticoagulants are products which stop the blood from clotting, which causes internal bleeding and eventually death. Some examples of common anticoagulants include warfarin and bromadiolone. Non-anticoagulants do not affect the blood and actually cause different effects. For example, some will disrupt a rat’s nervous system, while others increase the amount of calcium in the blood, which causes organ failure. Both types of poisons are effective and can be bought from hardware and general stores. Because rat poison comes in different varieties, people will need to wait between 12 hours to 4-5 days for them to be effective.
People interested in purchasing rat poison should know that it comes in multiple forms such as bars, pellets, chunks, and blocks that are wrapped separately for freshness. Home and business owners should never use a rat poison if they don’t fully understand how to handle one because the substances are highly toxic to other animals, including humans and pets. Most rat poisons should be placed in areas that only rats will be likely to reach and should be monitored carefully to ensure other animals don’t encounter them. Although they sound simple, all forms of rat poison are dangerous for an amateur to handle on their own. To prevent an accident, it is recommended to contact a pest control professional to identify an infestation hiding place and demonstrate how rat poison can be handled in a safe manner.
House mice range from 2.5-4 in. long and are typically varying shades of gray throughout their entire bodies. Their tails are usually the same length as their bodies, meaning some mice with have 4 in. long tails. Their eyes are small, round, and dark, and house mice have rounded ears which are large compared to their bodies. They can live in buildings and also outside near food. Although house mice don’t live longer than a year or two, they reproduce quickly with 5-7 pups per litter and up to 10 litters a year. This means that a property which starts off with a single pair of mice could have up to 72 mice within a year.
House mice eat a lot of cereal grains but will partake of whatever they can find. Their nests are close to a food source and are usually somewhere nearby but out of sight. House mice are nocturnal and eat shortly after sunset and before sunrise. Their droppings are distinctive and small with pointed ends. For most home and business owners, finding droppings is often the first sign of a mice infestation.
The second type of mouse is the deer mouse. Deer mice can live inside and outside a building and are attracted to areas where there is plentiful food. They often plague farmers and eat crops looking for sustenance. Deer mice range in color from red-brown to gold-brown with white bellies and feet. They are roughly 4 in. long with tails about half of the size of their bodies – usually 2-2.5 in. in length. Unlike house mice, deer mice have large eyes and ears with very little hair on them. Their bodies tend to be larger and they tend to curve their tails, giving them a distinctive characteristic that lets people tell them apart from the house mouse. They reproduce less often and have smaller litters, but can still have several dozen pups in a single year.
Deer mice eat insects and seeds more than anything else, but will also search for food inside of homes and businesses. They are nocturnal and will eat shortly after sunset and before sunrise. Like house mice, their feces are small, barely .25 in. long, and curved at both ends. This is often the first warning sign for property owners that mice are nearby.
Mice are a dangerous pest to have within a home or business. Like other rodents, mice can be conduits of disease because they carry bacteria, viruses, and other pests like fleas. Some of the most common diseases they spread are salmonellosis, leptospirosis, Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, and lymphocytic chorio-meningitis. People do not need to touch the mice to contract these diseases. Instead, many people develop them from eating or drinking items which have been contaminated by mice urine or feces. Without treatment, these illnesses can lead to serious health concerns and might require hospitalization.
One of the best ways to eliminate mice is to contact a professional pest control company which can use a wide variety of methods to help remove the entire population. Professionals can use products like rodenticides and glue traps to poison or catch mice. Some can even capture the mice alive and move them to a different location. Many pest control professionals can additionally help home and business owners by mouse-proofing a home. They can eliminate entryways and explain proper sanitation and food storage so mice cease to be a problem. When it doubt, it’s best to keep the mice out.
Rats are common throughout the world and have a nasty reputation. Many of the rodents are believed to be carriers of disease, bacteria, and even other pests like fleas. Many of these assumptions aren’t wrong, and rats can be a troublesome and dangerous pest to have around a home or business. In California, there are two chief categories of rats: the roof rat and the Norway rat. Both species were introduced to the environment a long time ago by immigrants and settlers who accidentally carried them aboard their ships and wagons. As with many other pests, it can take a long time for a person to notice when they have a rat infestation.
Roof rats are also known as ship rats or black rats, and are one of the most common types around the globe. A roof rat tends to be a nondescript brown with bits of black, white, and grey on their bellies. They range between 12-16 inches long, with half of their size coming from their body and the other half from their scaly tails. Roof rats are nocturnal and search for food in groups. If they are in a building, people might encounter food packages which have been nibbled through, crumbs in the kitchen, or their feces. They will return to the same food source for as long as they are allowed, and open containers or weak packages are usually the primary targets. People should be careful not to handle roof rats as they are carriers of multiple diseases, including salmonellosis, rat bite fever, and typhus. They can also transfer fleas.
The Norway rat is a separate breed. It is known by many other names such as the brown rat, the street rat, and the common rat. These names are indicative of their commonality. The Norway rat possesses brown or dark grey fur with a lighter belly. Their bodies are 8-10 inches long, and their tails range between 7-10 inches. As with many other breeds, Norway rats will eat almost anything they can get their paws on, but they prefer a surprisingly balanced diet which includes fresh foods. However, cereals make up a large portion of their diet, as do other grains. Like with the roof rat, Norway rats invade homes and businesses in search of food and will often choose open or weak packages. They are nocturnal, possess strong senses of smell and hearing, and have been known to eat through walls and piping to find their food source. People should not handle Norway rats because they can transfer rat bite fever, salmonellosis, jaundice, cowpox virus, and other pests like fleas.
Once a rat infestation has been identified, what can be done? One of the first steps would be to identify what the rats have been eating and to cut off their food supply. People should not eat the food that has been contaminated by rats as it could now be a carrier of bacteria or other pests. People should also locate where the rats have been living, but should not try to eradicate the rodents. Rats have large teeth and will bite when threatened. Even healthy rats are carriers for bacteria and can transmit diseases like leptospirosis. It’s also possible for a human to develop a tetanus infection from a bite.
Instead, a professional pest control service should be called. Experts can identify all of the rats’ hiding places and eliminate them all safely and effectively. Professionals can also help home or business owners identify the conditions that made their building desirable to rodents. Sometimes, even having a sufficient amount of standing moisture, crumbs on the floor, and a crack leading inside is enough to attract a large rat population. Even one of these factors can be enough to invite a rat in. Once these items have been identified, pest controllers can explain methods to help keep rats out and home and business owners safe from future pest problems.
Jose D. has been providing pest control solutions to North County San Diego residents since 2000!