What Do Rat Tracks Look Like?
Suspect you have an unwanted house guest, but have no proof? Get wise about signs of rat tracks and get the jump on those dirty critters. Team up with your local rat control experts at Green Rat Control to execute an effective rat control plan of action.
What is a rat track?
Just like any other animal or rodent, rats leave behind telltale signs of their presence in the form of tracks. A rat track is simply a foot print left behind by the rodent, marking where it has been.
In some cases, rats leave behind other traces of evidence in their tracks. One unusual characteristic of rats is that their teeth never stop growing. As a result, rats must dull them by gnawing on hard surfaces and materials. They may even scrap the the surface they travel on with their teeth, leaving marks along with their footprints.
Rats are also known to have greasy fur. The path they travel may be marked or spotted with grease stains. So in addition to a distinct footprint, rat tracks will probably have gnaw or grease marks too.
What does a rat footprint look like?
There are two main types of rats that commonly invade residential homes: the Norway rat and the Roof rat. The Roof rat, also known as the black rat, is usually found in areas that have a mixture of country and city. Open, wild areas is what they prefer. They commonly invade barns, sheds, and rural homes.The Norway rat, or brown rat, is the city dweller. It prefers urban centers and other locations with a strong human presence. These are rats that you’d find dumpster diving in alleys, or nesting city block apartments.
The two rats look distinctly different. In the Roof rat, the tail can be about 15% longer than the head and body length. In the Norway rat, the tail is shorter. The Roof rat is much smaller than the large intimidating Norway rat, so small in fact that it is often mistaken for a mouse!
Rodent tracks typically show four toes on the front feet and five toes on the hind feet. Here is an illustration of Roof Rat tracks. The front paws and the back paws leave a different kind of print.
Image courtesy of Kim A. Cabrera
Although the front and back paws have different tracks, the hind prints are what you are likely to spot. This is because of the way Roof rats walk, with a wide straddle. A Roof rat trail usually shows the hind tracks landing on top of the front tracks. You won’t see clear imprints of the front tracks because the hind feet were placed on top of them, erasing those tracks.
Image courtesy of naturetracking.com
Sometimes rat tracks and prints are more easily identifiable in snow than they are in dust or dirt. These rat tracks in the snow are from a Norway rat. The outline of the rat paw has made a clear imprint. Like the Roof rat, the front and hind paws of the Norway Rat make different tracks. Here are few tips to look for when you are rat tracking:
- A rat’s front paws usually have four toes, and the hind feet have five.
- Hind rodent tracks will normally fall side-by-side, while the front feet rarely align, or are even visible.
- Front rat tracks are broad, while rear rat tracks are narrower and longer.
Don’t get confused with other rodent tracks!
Rats share many physical traits in common with rodents, such as squirrels, mice, gophers, groundhogs, and even beavers. Be smart and know how to spot the difference between a rat track vs. other critters.
- Semi-aquatic rodents like nutria, beavers, and moles have webbed feet.
- Bigger rodents like beavers, gophers, and groundhogs leave behind larger footprints that are often deeper, because they are heavier animals.
- squirrel tracks roam all around because they are social creatures.
Telling the difference between a rat track and a mouse track gets trickier. Both rodents have small tracks and their claws may not always be visible or leave an imprint because they are so light. But rat tracks are noticeably longer and larger, and fall in a different pattern than mouse tracks. Here is a side by side comparison.
Image Courtesy of petskill.org
Where should I look for rat tracks?
If you have not spotted a rat but are worried that there is one (or more!) lurking around, there are a few good places to begin your investigation. The Roof rat thrives in upper attic spaces, and the Norway rat inhabits low living spaces, like the basement. These two spaces will be most susceptible to rat invasion, so check there for signs of rat tracks first!
Rats crave warm spaces and love to gnaw on electrical wiring. For these reasons, you check for rat tracks near all of your major appliances. The appliances give off heat and are usually backed up against a wall- a perfect hiding spot for a rat! While you are checking for tracks, closely inspect your electrical wiring. If rats have tampered with your wires it could lead to an electrical fire!
A rats gotta eat! Rats are known to be foragers and eat just about anything, but when they have a choice there some favorite foods they’ll go after. Norway rats love fresh fruit, fish and meat. Fresh veggies, seeds and nuts are what Roof rats prefer. Check your pantry, lower cabinets and baseboards of your kitchen for signs of rat tracks.
Surprisingly, one rats favorite snacks is pet food! Whether you store your pet food inside, or in the garage, check around for rats tracks or evidence of gnaw marks.
Rats are nocturnal creatures, try inspecting for tracks first thing in the morning. The rats will have probably gone back to sleep, and the rats should be fresh and easier to spot. Known for being cautious, rats travel only in a small radius from their nest. When you do locate tracks that means you are very close to their nesting grounds!
Where there’s tracks there’s scat
Scat is just a fancy word for rat poop. Along rat tracks you are bound to find rat droppings. Gross! If you’ve found them inside, your first instinct is probably to clean it up ASAP. But you need to proceed with caution. Rat droppings can carry highly infectious diseases. You should never pick them up with your bare hands. Do not vacuum up droppings either. Doing so can cause infected dust and debris to go airborne. Contact your local experts are Green Rat Control to learn more about the dangers or rats and how to safely dispose of animal waste.
Rat tracks have been spotted. What’s the next step? Rats multiple rapidly and will wreak havoc on your home. You need to remove the rodents quickly and rat-proof your home. Contact the experts at Green Rat Control to do a thorough inspection. They will find and seal all possible entry points with steel and a polyurethane sealant!
Before you going crazy laying traps and trying to catch that filthy rat, think about your strategy. You need to be cautious- traps and repellents can be harmful and pose a risk to pets and small children living in the home. Even more dangerous are rodenticides! Rat poison is just that- poison. This rat control method is not worth the health risk it poses to your family. There are green rat control alternatives that are just as effective.
The experts at Green Rat Control can locate and perform rat removal services quickly and effectively using methods that are certified and safe. You’ll be in good hands and the rats won’t stand a chance!