Know Your Rats

Julie Anderson

Last month’s article announced that we have rats in SunBird; roof rats, to be exact. We outlined how to avoid rolling out the welcome mat for rats (starve them out by picking up all citrus food and pet food, clean up your yard including dog feces, and seal your home with stucco diamond mesh). You learned that, like some guests, it is easier to keep them out in the first place than it is to show them the door once they have settled in. The rats are here, however, and they are growing fat and multiplying from the citrus and pet food buffet being offered in SunBird.

Now it is time for an action plan and more information on how to identify different rats moving into our neighborhood.

Since roof rats are attracted to all citrus fruit, especially fruit on the ground, it makes sense to keep all fruit picked and off the ground. Many of our snowbirds have yet to return. Houses that stand empty are like a flashing “Vacancy, move right in” sign to roof rats. They are free to gorge undisturbed on fruit all night, then sleep and reproduce in the attic all day. If you know of a vacant house and you suspect roof rats, please call the HOA office at 480-802-4901. The office will then contact the homeowner, and volunteers will remove the fruit. If you are a homeowner not yet in SunBird and you are concerned that roof rats might have moved in, call the HOA office at 480-802-4901, or contact a professional pest control company and ask for a rat inspection.

We have identified two distinct species of rats that have decided to call SunBird their home. One is the roof rat, which was introduced in last month’s article. As a quick review, the roof rat is dark brown or black and has an extremely long, hairless tail. In fact, its tail is usually longer than its head and body combined. In nature, they live in trees and woodpiles, but in neighborhoods, they nest in roofs and attics. They use tree limbs to gain access to our roof, chewing their way through plastic and wood to find a cozy place to sleep.

The second species of rat living in SunBird is the pack rat, also known as a wood rat. This rat lives underground, usually burrowing beneath a wood pile, under a planter, or in the corner away from the main activity in your yard. This rat has a smaller, furry tail, and its ears are large and hairy. This rat gathers bits and pieces of food and trash and then carries the stash back to its nest, accumulating a collection of food and garbage. This rat has a white underbelly and white feet.

Help us keep SunBird an active community for people, not rats. Please call the office if you know of a vacant house, or if you are reading this article from afar and your house is vacant, call the office. We want to keep the rats out.