Most rodent problems involve one of three common rodent pests... house mice, Norway rats or roof rats. While they are all rodents, each has its own unique physical characteristics and behavior. In addition, you may have problems caused my Meadow Voles or Moles. The first step in addressing a rodent problem is to correctly identify the pest species you are dealing with.
House Mouse (Mus musculus)
The house mouse is easy to recognize, generally 16-18 cm in length and black or dusty gray in color. It is a nibbler. Inquisitive, though it stays close to its nest, which is typically 10-30 ft from a food and water source. Mice typically make their nests from string, shredded paper or straw. Its food preferences include grains, cereals, meats, fish, etc.
Norway Rat (Rattus Norvegicus)
The Norway rat is a large rodent, usually 30-45 cm in length, weighing 10-17 ounces with reddish brown fur. Norway rats typically nest in burrows 90-450 ft from a food and water source. With its powerful front teeth, a Norway rat can gnaw through wood, electrical cables, pipes and other objects. It is very suspicious of anything new in its environment. Its food preferences include grains, meats, fish, almost anything.
Roof Rat (Rattus rattus)
The black roof rat is smaller, weighing 6-9 ounces, has a thin body, pointy nose, large ears and tail, and is dark gray in color. It nests in trees/rooftops 100-300 ft from a food or water source. Its food preferences include fruits, vegetables, grains and seeds.
Meadow Vole (Microtus Pennsylvanicus)
Meadow Voles, sometimes called a field mouse or meadow mouse, have short, stocky bodies, short tails and legs, with gray to yellowish-brown fur. Their eyes are small and partially hidden. While primarily known as field rodents, Meadow Voles can be found around homes and cause extensive damage to lawns, trees and ornamental plants.
The most easily identifiable sign of voles is an extensive surface runway system with numerous burrow openings.
Watch for other key indicators of rodent activity including hair, gnaw marks and nests.
Look for signs of activity in dark shadowy areas where rodents travel.
Once you are confident you know your pest species, go to the Baiting Tips & Strategies section for practical advice on products, placement and general do's and don'ts.
Moles are an ancient species of mammals that are well adapted to their life underground. With their powerful forelimbs, moles excavate through the ground in search of food. These industrious creatures can tunnel up to 100 feet per day, causing significant damage above ground.
To fuel this high energy lifestyle, moles require vast quantities of high protein foods. They consume grubs and insects but their favorite food is the earthworm. Contrary to popular belief, moles do not eat plants, roots or bulbs.
Moles live underground most of their lives. Moles seen on the surface are most often juveniles, forced from their mother's nest and moving to establish their own tunnel system.
Rodent Biology 101
Rodents, which includes house mice, Norway rats and roof rats, are nocturnal creatures. They are active at night, with most activity occurring shortly before dawn and at dusk. They have poor vision but make up for it with excellent senses of touch, taste, smell and hearing. Their highly sensitive whiskers (vibrissae) guide them along walls and objects.
Rodents are omnivorous feeders, eating both plant and animal matter, though roof rats and house mice show a preference for certain types of food. All three in varying degrees can climb and swim.
Rat droppings are about 1/2 to 3/4 inch in length; mouse droppings are 1/4 inch. Compare droppings from your problem area with those shown below. This should provide a definitive identification.