Controlling the rodent population and preventing future infestations in your home is essential for many reasons.
Rodents carry and spread diseases, which can be harmful to your family’s health, as well as cause damage to your roof.
Take these four steps to help control and prevent the roof rat population on your property.
Step 1 – Inspect for rats
The first thing you need to do is inspect your roof. This will help you determine how severe the problem is and know where to set up your traps. Look for signs of rodents, including burrows, droppings or urine stains, signs of gnawing, rodents—dead or alive, and tracks. You will want to concentrate your control and preventative efforts in the places where you see the most signs of infestation.
Roof Rat Signs:
- Droppings – These are black (the color varies depending on the rat’s diet) and shaped like a capsule with blunt ends, ¼ to ½ inch long. They are three times the size of mouse droppings.
- Urine – Roof rat urine is a line of drops on the runways and can easily be seen with a black light or ultraviolet light.
- Signs of gnawing – Roof rats gnaw holes that are at least 2 inches in diameter. The holes typically have rough edges. Although they prefer wood, roof rats will also chew on other things, such as electrical wires and packaging.
- Rodents (dead or alive) – Rodents prefer to live out of sight, so if you see live rodents in the daylight, you are probably dealing with a heavy infestation. You may also hear rodents scratching, digging, or gnawing.
- Tracks – Roof rat tracks (runways) are free of vegetation, smooth, and well packed on the outside surfaces. The inside tracks can be seen in dirt or dust. A hind foot track is ¾ -1 inch in length—much shorter than a mouse’s tracks. You may also see a track in between the feet tracks, which is caused by the rat’s tail. Next, to the tracks, you may also see grease marks on the walls or surfaces next to the runways.
Step 2 – Keep clutter and food away
The most important thing you can do to prevent and control a rodent problem is sanitation. In order to live, roof rats need a steady supply of food and water. Try the following steps to sanitize your property:
- Do not store food items in bags or boxes because they can be easily gnawed through. Instead, store food in metal containers with lids that fit tightly.
- Rats will build nests with paper and cardboard—remove any unnecessary clutter.
- Remove grass clippings, weeds, and any other undesirable vegetation from around your property.
- Pet food should be stored overnight in a tightly-sealed container.
Step 3 – Reduce possible entryways
Roof rats enter structures through windows, doors, and air vents that are not properly fitted. They can enter through ½-inch openings. Although you can’t completely eliminate every possible entry opening, you can take the following steps to reduce the chance of rodents entering your property:
- Any opening in your property that is more than ¼-inch think should be sealed with caulk, mesh, wood or other material.
- Grates on floor drains and sewer pipes should be tight fitting and less than ¼ inch in diameter.
- All doors, windows, and screens should fit properly in their frames. Repair those that do not, and you might also consider covering the edges of screens with sheet metal. This will prevent gnawing.
Step 4 – Reduce the rat population
Not only will you want to implement the previous steps to prevent future growth, but you will also want to take steps to remove the population that is already there. The two basic methods of reducing your current rat population are baiting and trapping.
- Baiting involves attracting and killing the rodents with rodenticides or poison. When you have a large rat population, this is often a better choice than trapping. It also works well for outdoor rat populations. Rodents are attracted to the smell and continue eating the poison until it kills them. It only takes a few baits to kill the rats in a single feeding. Keep your baits fresh so that the rats continue to eat until they are dead. Once the bait is no longer being eaten, meaning there are no more rats to eat, you will know the bait worked.
- For indoor population control, trapping is the best option. Trapping is better than baiting because it does not use harmful poisons, and you know when it works because you can see the rat, as opposed to bait when the rat dies somewhere else. When you use a trap, you can easily dispose of the dead rat, eliminating odors. When you use traps, be sure to place the traps in high traffic areas, flush against a wall. Be sure to use enough traps to get rid of the rats quickly.