Roof rats arrived in North America with the Jamestown colonists in 1607. It’s also known as the black rat or ship rat.


  • Dark colored
  • Weighs less than 1 pound
  • Large ears
  • Tail is longer than the head and body
  • Spindle shaped droppings


  • 90% of their time is spent above ground, hence their name
  • Form nests in trees and high points, run on power lines or the tops of fences, or live in attics
  • Nocturnal, which is why you may hear them scurrying in your attic in the middle of the night
  • Tend to stick to familiar territory; they are not explorers, they find an area that suits their shelter and food needs and usually don’t venture more than a few hundred feet from there


  • Rarely live for more than a year in the wild
  • During that year, a single adult female can produce more than 40 baby rats
  • Rarely die naturally but when they do it’s often in a safe place, like your attic, which will create an unpleasant odor
  • Most will be killed by predators
  • Commonly small because they breed in such high numbers, which makes so many of them young


  • When trapping roof rats, it is not uncommon to get a few large ones and a number of small ones, indicating a possible family of roof rats
  • Traps may need to be prebaited in order to capture shy individuals