You may be surprised to know that horrible rat you’ve seen scurrying around your garden might not be all that ‘horrible’. Last night, ABC’s Catalyst program showed a great segment on the different types of four-legged creatures that frequent Aussie backyards – and they’re not always the bad kind.
You can watch the program here:
What types of critters should be banned, or welcomed, in your backyard? Our experts tell all…
The visitors you don’t want
Black Rat (Rattus rattus)
- Don’t be fooled by their name! They are rarely black, usually brown!
- Characterised by the size of their tail, which is usually equal to or longer than the rat’s body
- They have a pointed nose, large ears and a slender body
Brown Rat or Norway Rat (Rattus norvegicus)
- They can grow quite large: up to 40cm in length
- Their tail is shorter than their body
- They have a blunt nose, small ears and a thicker body than the Black Rat
Why they’re unwelcome
- They were introduced by European settlers so are a threat to our native fauna and flora
- They can carry a full range of parasites and viruses, including round worm and Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCM)
- They are great climbers and can scale walls and drain pipe, and also jump great distances
- Once in and around your home they can damage your insulation, chew through floor joists and walls, and cause fires by chewing on electrical cables
The welcome visitors
- These cute little guys are often confused for rats!
- They have long, pointed snouts; a compact body; long, thin tail and are about the size of a rabbit
- Their total pregnancy is 12.5 days!
- They’re nocturnal, so you’ll generally only see them scurrying around at night (and in chocolate form at Easter in Australian supermarkets)
- As a native species they’re not a threat to our wildlife, but are often the target of large birds, foxes, snakes and feral cats
Bush Rat (Rattus fuscipes)
- Again, these little natives are often confused for rats!
- They’re grey-brown in colour with round ears and a relatively short tail, and grow up to 20cm in length
- They prefer to live in the dense forest understorey, sheltering in short burrows under logs or rocks and lining their nests with grass (Source)
- Rentokil recently funded a study with Prof. Peter Banks from University of Sydney (featured in the ABC Catalyst program linked above!) looking into the effect of Bush Rats in stopping Black Rats from invading bushland areas in Sydney. You can read more about the study on the University of Sydney website
How to keep away your unwanted guests
There are a few things you can do around the home to deter those unwanted visitors. Visit our “How to deter rats” page to find out more.
Bandicoot – By JJ Harrison (firstname.lastname@example.org) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Bush Rat – By Gary Lewis (Own work), via Museum Victoria