|The brown rat is considered to be a pest throughout most of its range. Still it rarely lives in occupied houses or buildings but, rather, makes its home in areas uninhabited by people. The brown rat inhabits all parts of the world populated by humans and breeds rapidly in colonies located in sewers and garbage dumps. It arrived in the Americas by way of ships belonging to early European explorers and settlers.|
The brown rat is found worldwide, with the exception of the polar regions. It can survive in almost any environment, but it is most commonly found near farms, in garbage dumps, and in sewers. It likes dense cover, where it will dig a series of linking burrows in sloping ground in the side of a ditch. It also prefers to live near water and is a good swimmer. The brown rat lives in colonies where every member recognizes each other by smell. There is a social structure in a colony, but the dominant rats are tolerant of others. Where there is plenty of food available, the rat may need to colonize only small areas no more than several yards in length. In large colonies, such as those found sewers and garbage dumps, the highest-ranking rat will live in the choice spot, close to the food source. The low-ranking rats must often struggle to survive.
A female brown rat is ready to breed when she is 11 weeks old and weighs four ounces. After mating, the male plays no part in rearing the young.
The female builds a round nest of loose material such as straw. The nest is often located in an underground burrow. After 21-24 days, 6 to 11 young are born blind and hairless. They are totally dependant on their mother, who suckles them for three weeks. At the end of this time, they are ready to leave the nest. A female may sometimes give birth to three to five litters a year. A large colony is often started by a single pregnant female. The black rat, or ship rat, is rarer and can produce almost as many litters as the brown rat, but its females are not ready to breed until they are four months old.
FOOD AND FEEDING
The brown rat feeds at night and sleeps through the day. It is most active at dawn and dusk. Although its eyesight is poor, the brown rat has a very keen sense of smell which it uses to locate food. The rat prefers to eat stored or cultivated cereal grains but also eats meat. It eats various types of poultry, including ducklings.
Food is usually carried in its mouth to a safe place where it is eaten. Large items are dragged to a hiding place. The food the rat leaves uneaten is left behind since, unlike many rodents, the brown rat does not hoard food.
NATUREWATCHThe brown rat can be seen scavenging for food near garbage dumps or abandoned buildings. In the country sloping ground is often the site of a rat burrows that are 2-3 inches in diameter. Narrow, well-used paths are often signs that a rat colony is nearby.
In buildings, the rat leaves dark, greasy trails near food sources. Rats can also be spotted swimming across canals or rivers.
Special Features of the Brown Rat
Teeth: The brown rat has 16 teeth: 2 incisors and 6 molars in each jaw. It has no pre-molars and, like all rodents, no canine teeth.
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