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South Bucks District Council
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Rats - An Increasing Menace

Rats can cause the spread of diseases such as Weil's - a bacterial infection, toxoplasmosis and salmonella.

Brown Rats

These are the most commonly found rats in South Buckinghamshire. They are rodents, brownish/grey on the back and grey underneath. Their average weight is 335g and they are 300-450mm long. They are also known as the common rat, sewer rat and Norway rat. Like most rats, they are nocturnal, although they are sometimes seen during the day. They must continually gnaw to wear down their teeth. They are active burrowers, good climbers and reasonably good swimmers (often leading to confusion with water voles). They have poor eyesight and are colour blind but they have a good sense of smell and taste and acute hearing. Rats are capable of reproducing at 3-4 months old, and can have 3-6 litters per year, depending upon food availability and harbourage. The litter size can be around 6-11 young, with a lifespan of between 12-19 months. Some estimates give 5 rats for every human being on the earth and that, wherever you are, there is a rat within 15 metres.

Where Can Brown Rats Be Found?
They are found in most parts of the District, particularly in close proximity to food sources. They can be found where poor hygiene standards exist either in residential or commercial outlets. They are believed to have originated from eastern Asia. They tend to move to buildings in the autumn and winter for shelter and food and can also be found in warehouses, farms and, more often than not, in roof spaces of houses. In summer they return to the open countryside to feed on growing vegetation.

Such seasonality is not found, however, where food is available at a site all year round, such as on intensive rearing farms or at urban refuse tips. In these situations the rats will attempt to stay on site permanently. Within these habitats, they burrow into earth banks, compost or muckheaps and into the structure of buildings and sewers. They also inhabit undisturbed storage areas such as haystacks and tyre heaps or pallets, especially if these areas are close to food sources.

How To Spot Rats
Look for holes in the ground about 8cm in diameter
They leave greasy smears on walls they have brushed past
Their droppings are cylindrical and about 2cm long
They leave gnaw marks as they chew their way through anything from wood, electrical wire to concrete to reach food

How To Stop Rats Setting Up Home
Put rubbish in sealed bins. Don't leave out loose sacks
Use composters with bottoms and enclosed sides

How To Control Brown Rats

  • Keep your property clean and clear of rubbish items
  • Remove accumulations of rubbish instead of leaving until later
  • Tidy up stored materials and locate them away from food areas
  • Keep food, including animal food, in rodent proof containers and dispose of spilled food responsibly
  • Ensure that any building where food is kept is proofed against rodents by blocking any holes in walls, floors and doors with wire meshing and filling in gaps around entry points of services with sand/cement mixtures.
  • Keep vegetation around buildings short and tidy to expose rat runs and burrows. Rats are nervous of open spaces hence having predator pets like cats, may provide additional protection.

Other Control Methods
Despite good standards of hygiene and proofing, infestations will sometimes occur. In such circumstances, it will be necessary to take action to control the rats. Methods of control include trapping and chemical control using fumigants or rodenticide baits. Please remember that rodenticides are also poisonous to humans, livestock, pets and wildlife. Always read the product label before use and follow the label instructions. Control should always be carried out together with preventative measures, otherwise the underlying causes of the infestation remain and re-infestation will inevitably occur.

If you do not wish to control a rodent problem yourself see our Pest Control Treatments for Domestic Properties page.