By Ali Holton

Florida is home to many different species of mammals, including rodents. Rodents in general account for almost 40 percent of the mammal population worldwide. These critters have a bad reputation of being unwanted pests and vermin; however, they are incredibly smart animals.

One of the most widely distributed of these intelligent animals are rats. Within the state, there are three species of rats which are the most commonly and frequently encountered by humans: the Norway rat, roof rat and wood rat. These species are also referred to by dozens of more common and regionally popular names. For example, the roof rat is also known as the black rat, gray rat, fruit rat, citrus rat and palm rat.

Roof rats average around 12 to 14 inches in length, which includes their long, bald tails. They are the species typically found nesting in garages, attics and walls or ceilings. Dark, dry, insulated spaces are appealing to these elusive creatures. Roof rats are very nimble climbers and jumpers and live in treetops, which is why they are commonly found in attics. These furry critters are scavengers with an omnivorous diet that consists mostly of fruits, nuts, berries, seeds and even insects and slugs.

Rats are warm-blooded animals that can be found almost anywhere in the state. They are incredibly resilient and adaptable to urban sprawl. They are also very prolific and can reproduce over 20 babies a year each. Most rodents are nocturnal, making them most active between dusk and dawn. They spend their days sleeping in their cozy nests. Sometimes, those cozy nests are in our homes, where these cute critters may be unwanted. Rats inhabiting residential homes have been known to cause damages, such as gnawing through wood, insulation and wiring.

These animals typically enter homes through small openings, commonly within attics. While calling pest control may be appealing, it is also incredibly inhumane as these animals are typically poisoned or baited with glue traps. These malicious forms of pest control can have a devastating impact to the many species who prey on rodents. Rodenticides and glue traps have been responsible for the death of many birds of prey, such as owls and eagles, and glue traps have claimed many lives of nationally protected bat species.

Be sure to have your home inspected thoroughly for access points and remember that there are humane methods such as live traps available to opt for trap and release.

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