Why is Texas seeing more rats and mice this year?
Rat Number Increasing in Texas
It seems that there has been an explosion of rat and mice sightings in Texas this year, especially rats in San Antonio. I wanted to know if that is what everyone else has been experiencing or is it just us here at Beeline Pest Control. Here is what a few of the experts from Texas A&M are saying.
Jerry Falke, wildlife damage management biologist for AgriLife Extension’s Texas Wildlife Services who is based in the Bastrop area stated, “Last fall was an exceptionally wet season in this area of Texas. The increase in late-season grass and seed was a major factor in greater native rodent activity, and the resulting population led to increased migration into residences, storage buildings, shops and other indoor locations in wintertime.”
Jerry does make a great point about rats and mice wanting to come inside our homes during wintertime. Rodents can be found in a house or garage any time of the year, but they will be more inclined to move in when food sources are less abundant and warm dry homes are harder to find.
Linda Tschirhart-Hejl, a Wildlife Services biologist based in Bryan said “I’d say in general that certain geographic regions of Texas have had increased rat and mouse activity this year” Linda also said “other parts of the state that regularly see greater-than-average activity from rats and mice are urban areas such as Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and El Paso, though this activity usually comes from the “commensal” or non-native species that typically infest the more metropolitan areas of the U.S.”
Another article I found cited Janet Hurley, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension IPM Specialist, she stated, “Increased sightings are happening all over the country,”
She also discusses that part of the population spike may be due to more people being at home due to covid-19. While it is true that having more people at home might increase the sightings of rodents in people’s homes, the other side of that coin is, rats are typically nocturnal and most people were home at night just as much before covid-19 as they are now. So, I am not saying that the pandemic isn’t increasing the sightings somewhat, I don’t think that it is the whole answer to this increase.
The CDC has even commented on the increase of rodent activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now warning that “some jurisdictions have reported an increase in rodent activity as rodents search for new sources of food.” That makes a lot of sense, if rats and mice aren’t able to get their next meal at a local restaurant they are going to look for other sources. That “other source” might just be your house!
It definitely appears that we at Beeline Pest Control are not the only ones noticing an increase of rat and mice activity in San Antonio this year! I am seeing expert after expert comment on the increase.
Types of rodents in San Antonio
There are 3 main types of rodents that are a problem for residential and commercial buildings in the San Antonio area.
House mouse– House mice are small, grayish brown rodents. Their body is about 3-4 inches and the tail length is about 2-4 inches. They are reproductively mature in 6 to 10 weeks. Here is the real problem, they can have thirteen litters per year with about 5 to 6 mice in each litter! Mice make nest relatively close to their food source because they only travel about 20 feet for food. Underneath cabinets and wall voids are ideal places for them to nest. In San Antonio we see far more rat treatments than we do mice treatments. That might be because we have a lot of rats and rats will often kill and eat mice. Did you know that mice don’t really like cheese! They will eat it if it their only food source but If you are going to use traps a preferred bait would be peanut butter, chocolate, or bacon.
Roof rat-The smaller of the rats in San Antonio, Roof rats or black rat, are grayish-black or, brown and much bigger than mice. Roof rats bodies are 5 to 7 inches long with a 6 to 9 inch tail. Roof rats are reproductively mature at 2-3 months. They can have 3-4 litters per year with 4-8 pups per litter. Roofs rats are true to their name they love to climb. These are the rats that you may have seen running along fences or power lines. They love to make their nest in attics, false ceilings, and trees. If you are here in San Antonio and are hearing scratching or chewing at night, there is a good chance that roof rats have moved in. Whereas if you are hearing it during the day, chances are, you might have squirrels. That isn’t always the case but it is a pretty good rule of thumb. They typically only travel about 100 feet to forage for food which consists of fruit and berries, meats, seeds, vegetables, and eggs if they can find them. Of course, it goes without saying, those are the items that most pet foods are made of as well! It is a good practice to keep your pet food in a sealed container, so you are not putting out a welcome mat!
Norway rat- The third type of rodent found often here in San Antonio is the Norway rat. These are the largest of the three rodents. Their body can get up to 11 inches long and their tail is only slightly shorter. Norway rats reach reproductive maturity at 5 weeks. They have up to 5 litters per year and can have as many as 14 pups in each litter. So even though it is unlikely because of other factors, if you calculate that out, the population can grow from 2 rats to 15,000 in a single year! Norway rats are very good at digging and can excavate elaborate burrows. These rats will eat just about anything but according to Martin Schein, who is the founder of the Animal Behavior Society, “their preferred food is scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese, raw carrots, and cooked corn kernels.” Just in case you were wondering! If you have holes going under your house or sidewalk that are about 3 inches wide, give or take, there is a pretty high likelihood that Norway rats have made a home underneath yours. Did you know that Norway rats are very good at chewing and they love human food. If you are having an issue with Norway rats you might want to consider sealing up your pantry food in glass or metal tins. They can chew right through plastic.
What to do if you have mice and rats in your house?
Mice and rats in Texas love to live close to people. After all people provide food and shelter. The problem is people don’t like to have rodents living with them, for good reason. They can cause all kinds of problems.
- Mice and rats contaminate food. It would be one thing if mice and rats stuck to just eating food that is no longer wanted or thrown away, but they don’t stop there. They have no issue with chewing into boxes, bags, barrels, or whatever they think might have their next meal inside. They won’t eat much but now the entire container must be thrown out due to being contaminated.
- Mice and rats cause damage. Not only can they damage food but they can chew on wires or pipes. I have seen where rats have chewed through water lines in an attic causing flooding throughout the house. I have also seen where they have shorted out the electricity of homes by chewing through electrical wires. Of course, having your power go out can cause a myriad of other issues. They can also chew holes in the side of your house causing all kind of other issues besides just being extremely irritating!
- Mice and rats carry diseases. There are several health hazards that can be caused by rodents. According to an article from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service–Wildlife Services, they can cause “diseases such as Typhus Fever, Trichinosis, plague, infectious jaundice, Salmonella and rat mite dermatitis”
If you already have rodents in your house you are definitely going to want to get rid of them, sooner than later. There are 2 main ways of getting rid of rodents and both have their advantages and disadvantages.
- Baiting for mice and rats is, from what we have seen, the fastest and best long term solution. Not to mention the most cost effective! Bait should be placed in tamper resistant bait boxes in areas that are close to their nesting place. Make it convenient for them! It is also important to choose the right type of bait and boxes. The disadvantage for baiting is that there is a chance that one might die in a wall. This disadvantage seems to be played up a lot by companies that only trap. The truth is, we rarely see this happen and it can happen whether we trap or bait. If it does happen there are many ways to get rid of the smell until it dehydrates. Usually it takes a couple days to a week but it depends on how big it is and the humidity in the air. One of the ones that we have seen work well is called Rat sorb and can be purchased on Amazon.
- Traps are a solution that typically takes longer than bait and, if you have a company do it, is very expensive because the traps should be checked every few days. Just remember that if you do trap, don’t use cheese. Peanut butter, bacon, or just a piece of string seems to work much better. There are also commercial attractants but we have seen mediocre results from those.
If you are having a rodent issue that you need help with Beeline Pest Control would love to help. We do not charge to send out a trained technician to assess what needs to be done. Our prices are great and we back up our rodent treatments with a 6 month warranty! If you are good with the price we can typically treat it the same day. Just call us at 210-739-1320.