Do Rats Live Underground?

Do Rats Live Underground?

Most of us have had a run-in with a rat, or two, or plenty. Even the most careful of homeowners have fallen victim to rat infestations at some point. You might have seen the way they tear into cereal boxes as they dig through the cupboards, how they scavenge the counters for fruits, grains, and whatever else they can find, all while living somewhere in your house—usually within a wall, the basement, or attic. It’s easy to tell where they’re living in your house based on where their droppings tend to accumulate. But have you ever wondered where rats live when they’re not taking up residence in your home? Do rats live underground?

Since rats are rodents and rodents are notorious diggers, it’s natural to assume that all rats must live underground when they’re not in the house. After all, you hardly ever see a rat rummaging around during the day. Knowing that they’re nocturnal creatures, it only makes sense for a rat to sleep in the safest possible place while they wait for the cover of darkness. And what better place than underground?

Well, if this is what you assumed, then you’d be partially right. Rats do live up to their name as rodents, having been known to create burrows underground. But you might be surprised to learn that not all species of rat seek to create these burrows. In fact, only one of the two most common types of wild rat found in the U.S steadily rely upon digging rat burrows for shelter. Here’s a brief rundown of the two.

Roof rats

These small sleek rats, typically referred to as black rats, are not those you’d likely ever find in the ground. Roof rats are just as their name suggests, rodents that prefer to live in high places. These are the little pests you usually hear scurrying around up in the attic at night.

Being extremely adept climbers, they obtain many of their favorite foods from trees, some of which include the following: nuts, seeds, grains, fruits, and vegetables.

  • Because rats prefer to stay close to their next meal, these critters typically reside in trees, namely Cypress, Yucca (Joshua), and palm trees.

Courtesy of crystalahuff

However, given the chance to sneak into your attic, they won’t hesitate! Your house has everything they need: warmth, shelter, cover from predators, and food!

  • Building a nest within your insulation is the closest thing to a rat burrow these guys will produce. They’ve been known to create tunnel systems within the insulation, also using it to store up food for their young.

If you hear rats in your attic, it’s likely they have already begun nesting within the insulation, which is a major concern! Rats carry diseases, making it extremely dangerous for the average person to replace the soiled insulation. For this reason, don’t hesitate to call in the professionals. The team at Green Rat Control has over 20 years of experience safely dealing with rats and will gladly remove the hazardous insulation for you.

Norway rats

These brown rats are larger than roof rats, distinguished by their color, shorter tail, smaller eyes, and blunt nose. If Norway rats happen to find their way into your home, they’ll likely be in the basement, garage, or hiding in cluttered parts of the house. Unlike the roof rat, these pests are most familiar with the ground, which is why they’re sometimes referred to as ground rats.

Just as the name suggests, this is the type of rat that you’ll find living underground. These guys like to burrow, sometimes creating elaborate tunnels with a series of escape routes. It’s not uncommon for there to be an entire population of Norway Rats underground.

  • If you suspect rats burrowing on your property, look for rat holes in soil. Ground rats will only use one hole as both their entrance and exit; it’s usually 2 to 4 inches from side to side. An active hole will appear clean on the outside with a fan of dirt in the front. Check for recent activity by blocking the hole up with debris. If there’s a rat nest in ground, they’ll let you know by clearing away the material within a day or two.

Norway rats will eat anything and everything they can get their little paws on. Leaving food unattended is one of the main reasons why ground rats are attracted to houses.

  • They tear through garbage bags, eat up leftover pet food, and scavenge for meat, seeds, nuts, and grains. If you have an insect problem, they’ll eat those too if they can! These brown rats are known for creating burrows near barns, silos, and vegetation, making them a real pain to farmers, ranch owners, and average gardeners.

brown rat living underground

Courtesy of Designer from CC0

Rat infestations happen quickly. Once a Norway rat finds a food source, he’s not likely to leave until it no longer exists. This leads to large populations of rats, sometimes growing from a single colony to several! Rats are dominant creatures, forcing their weaker members to sleep in the farther sections of the burrow, where they have less access to food and water.

  • If you see rats scavenging during the day, take that as a sign that either a rat burrow has been disturbed, or the colony is so large that some rats have no choice but to look for food during the day while the more dominant rats are asleep.

Keep in mind that ground rats will only stay in burrows until they find something better. They’ll live their wholes lives out in your house if you’ll let them, which is why learning to keep them away from your property is a definite must!

  • Never leave food unattended indoors or out. Rats have a keen sense of smell and have been known to chew through walls to obtain food and shelter. Eliminating food sources from around the home will quickly deter them from the inside of your house. This means removing bird feeders from the porch, making sure the garbage cans are tightly secured with a lid, and getting rid of easy food sources like spoiled fruit or vegetables in the garden.

How to get rid of rats

If you’ve found rat holes in soil somewhere on your property, don’t panic. Here’s how to get rid of them.

Place unarmed baited snap traps near their burrows and wait.

  • Rats are extremely cautious creatures and will not usually interact with a trap, even if it has bait attached to it, until they know that the object isn’t a threat. When you notice the bait being consumed, that’s the time to set it. Learn more about where to place snap traps here…

Seal the burrows.

  • Use copper mesh to seal the burrows the same way you would an area in your house. You can even place chicken wire over the burrow to further deter the rats from calling your garden their home. If it’s too much trouble for a rat to re-gain access to their hole, they’ll likely give up and find another.

Be clean.

  • Remove wood piles, excess piles of leaves and branches, and manage the shrubbery around your home. Rats are naturally drawn to messy environments and will use anything for shelter.

Manage water sources.

  • Investigate pipes, broken sprinkler systems, and drainage. Among being called ground rats, Norway rats are also known as sewer rats, and they typically cling to places with standing water. Removing an easy water source is a fast deterrent.

Call pest control services.

  • Never be afraid to call in the professionals. The longer it takes for you to manage an infestation on your own, the faster their colonies will grow and spread. Rats can become pregnant as early as six weeks of age! So, you’ll need to handle the problem as quickly as possible. Luckily, GRC uses methods that are both environmentally friendly and extremely successful. You can rest assured that your family and gardens will be safe, but those rats won’t stand a chance.