If there’s ever a rat to be scared of, the black rat is most definitely it. It was believed that this little guy — the humble black rat — was responsible for spreading the Black Death Or Bubonic Plague right across Europe and the rest of the world, in the Middle Ages, although they are somewhat rare in certain areas now. The UK, for example, doesn’t have a massive population of black rats, also known as house rat, roof rat, or ship rat, but the USA does still have a few problems with them, depending on the area.
Are black rats or brown rats bigger?
Brown rats are actually the bigger of the two species. Black rats tend to weight about half as much as what it’s brown cousin does, and the body length is quite a bit shorter, too. If you popped the black rat on the scales, it would probably tip them at a quarter of a kilo. The brown rat would be double that.
Tail included, black rats are about 30-40 cm, with the tail making up around 10-15cm of that, and although you might think the black rat was in fact just black in color, there are actually quite a few different variations. Location will play a big impact on color, causing it to range from light browns and grays, right up to the blackest of black. You can usually differentiate between brown-colored black rats and actual small brown rats by the fur — black rats are much more “straggly” looking.
What does the black rat eat?
Both black and brown rats eat pretty much everything that we humans would eat, plus a lot more that we wouldn’t. They love leftovers — the food that we throw out in the garbage because we were too full up or the food had started to go bad. They also love bird feed and many homeowners leave that out for the birds. Cereal products are preferable but, just like other scavengers, the black rat will eat anything it finds and can gain some nutritional value from.
How much does the black rat eat?
Black rats are smaller than brown rats, but they can eat just as much food in a single night. It is estimated that the average wild black rat will eat somewhere in the region of 50 grams of food in one single night. Being nocturnal, they will have the run of a kitchen when everyone in the house has gone to bed, and if that is the case, they will not only eat and eat until they literally can’t eat more, but will even stash some back in the nest/bedding area, too.
Where will you find black rats in America?
The black rat isn’t actually native to the USA, believed to have been brought to the country at some point during the 1500’s, by ships, explorers, and tradesmen. Although we don’t really know for sure where the black and brown rat originated from, they are thought to have come from China and other places in the Orient first.
Areas that are close to the sea, ports, and coastal locations have a much higher population of black rats than inland areas. The brown rat has taken over inland, pushing the brown rats to the ships and very edges of land masses. Mexico has quite a large population of black rats, and many south-easterly coastal regions of the USA are hard hit. Follow the map along the coast, starting at Massachusetts and ending in Canada, and those are the places you will commonly find large infestations of black rats.
Where do black rats live in residential areas?
Although generally considered to be coastal rats, and found in areas that brown rats are not, there are plenty of places in which the two can coexist quite nicely. Where this does happen, brown rats rule the roost down on the ground, and the black rat is quite literally forced higher up — living in attics, roof systems, trees, etc. When the black rat comes down to ground level, brown rats attack. Being the larger of the two rodent species, the brown rat will usually win the battle.
Old and abandoned buildings are great nesting and home spots for both rat species, and plenty of other wild critters, too, and you will also find rodents in warehouses, barns, sheds, garages, churches, cathedrals, and other, very large constructions. Again, where both rats are present, the brown rat will be down on the ground and the black rat population will be kept contained in the higher levels.
In places where black rats have a larger population than brown rats, it is safe for them to spend a lot more time down on the ground. You will then find them in all of the same places that you will find the brown rat — underneath sheds, decking, porches, in crawl spaces, attics, basements, living in the wall cavities, and plenty more.
Do black rats or brown rats have more babies?
Both rat species breed like … well, rats. However, the brown rat is slightly faster and more prolific than the black rat, which likes to take a little more time. Brown rats will more than likely breed all-year round, but black rats prefer the warmer temperatures, meaning that things can slow down a little during the cooler, winter months.
In really good conditions, it is estimated that female black rats can give birth to somewhere in the region of 40 to 50 pups in one year. Better conditions will bring faster breeding, and when a large number of rats are culled/destroyed, the rats will also breed quicker to try and bring the numbers back up. With plenty of food and warmth, there is no real limit to the speed and rate at which black rats can reproduce, especially since they are pregnant for just three weeks at a time, and can fall pregnant immediately after giving birth.
Young black rats can start to breed when they hit around 3 or 4 months of age, but they weaned at a very early point, usually after about four weeks. Sadly, many of the black rat pups will die before they reach a year old. The more pups there are in a litter, the higher the chances of them dying. In the wild, a black rat is only expected to live to about a year old, but when kept in captivity (bred as pets, not wild black rats), they can survive for three, four, five years and beyond, especially if their conditions are just perfect and they are in the care of a great owner.
Do black rats hibernate or migrate?
No, black rats do not hibernate or migrate for the winter. They’ll stay put, just finding a warmer place to sleep if their current one isn’t quite up to scratch. You are just as likely to find a rat eating from your dumpster at night during the winter as you are during the summer. Life is much harder for these animals during the winter, of course, with food being scarce and water sources freezing over. That’s before you look into the plummeting temperatures and fewer outdoor places suitable for an overnight nesting spot.
Rats — both black and brown rats — will enter human buildings more during the winter. It is very common, however, for rat infestations to occur at ANY time of the year.
Are black rats nocturnal?
Yes, black rats are nocturnal, just like their brown cousins. That doesn’t mean you won’t see either rat species during daylight hours; if food is scarce, they are disturbed, or they have found a very good source of food, they are easily awoken from their daytime slumbers. Both black and brown rats are very sociable creatures, and will spend a good portion of the day awake and socializing with one another. They do not sleep the entire day away.
What are the natural predators of a black rat?
The natural predators of this rat species will depend largely on the area in the United States in which the rodent population resides. Common predators include owls, hawks, eagles, and other large birds, as well as snakes and other mammals that eat meat — cats, dogs, foxes, wolves, coyotes, raccoons, opossums, skunks, etc. Black rats are smaller in size than brown rats and are more likely to come under attack from medium-sized pets and predators.