The term “rat” is commonly used to refer to any rodent when, in fact, rodents are a superfamily that includes many different relatives. Inside this, there are rats and mice, known as the Muroidea family. These creatures share many characteristics but also many differences in their physical appearance and behavior.
Those of the Rattus genus, the most well known being the roof rat and the Norway rat, are considered direct relatives and “true rats”; whereas the pack rat, is not actually a rat! Arizona is home to many of these rodents and, as they have become a plague, you may want to check out how to identify them.
The Rattus rattus Linnaeus, commonly known as “Roof rat” is the smallest of them all. The complexion of this animal is tiny, though it has a long tail. As they come from rain forests of Southeast Asia, they are good for climbing different surfaces, like wires. They do not like the cold, so Arizona is a nice warm place for them to live. If you find rat excrement and noises in the roof, your house may be infested with these rodents. Roof rats dig through wood, insulation, and pipes; dense vegetation also attracts them. As they can swim, roof rats sometimes use sewage lines to move to other places. They are usually found in desert city areas in Arizona like Phoenix, Yuma and Tucson.
Norway rats, close relatives of the roof rats and also known as “old world rats” or “brown rats” are less common than roof rats, but still a threat. They differ in color, as the Norway rat is brown or reddish, and the roof rat is black. While roof rats prefer living in high places, such as roofs, attics, and trees, their Norway relatives would rather stay in the ground; they build their dens alongside rivers and streams, underneath buildings or in garbage dumps. They are also a common pest in farms, as they settle in barns, kennels, and silos.
Pack rats, on the other hand, are not considered true rats as they belong to the Neotoma genus, they are a different species. There are over 20 species of pack rats, from the Arctic to Central America. The species found in Arizona is the White Throat Wood Rat, also known as “woodrat” and “new world rat”. They usually build dens with vegetation and wood, and they hoard bits and pieces as protection, such as leaves, chewed plastic and paper, and any object they can find.
Certainly, it is important to identify these plagues in order to keep them at bay. Originally from Europe and Southeast Asia, rats were introduced in the USA by trading ships in the 17th century, and they rapidly spread across the country. Roof rats, Norway rats, and Pack rats prefer the hot and sunny Arizona as their living space. Make sure you take all the sanitary measures to keep these rodents out of your property.