The Brown rat – Rattus norvegicus, also known as the common rat, the street rat or the sewer rat is not everyones favourite mammal but you have to admire them.
If you Google ‘Brown rat’ it comes up with loads of companies that promise to get rid of them or newspaper headlines such as ‘A nest of giant cannibal rats was found in London’ or ‘Britain set for super rat plague as millions of 2ft long rodents immune to poison blossom’.
Brown rats are opportunists and we certainly give them lots of opportunity. They are omnivores, scavengers, they will eat anything, but their main diet is cereal.
In the wild they rarely live more than a year to 18 months. They can have 5 litters in a year with each litter averaging between 6 to 11 babies. Many young rats are killed by owls, foxes, stoats or cats.
I live in a rural area and we rarely get rats in our garden. I have the trail camera out in and around my garden most weeks and only a couple of times a year will it pick up rats. The camera is more likely to pick up Wood mice or Bank Voles.
In the past week one very old looking , scruffy rat has turned up under the bird feeder. With the recent cold weather and not much to eat out in the field it is in search of an easy meal.
Rats are excellent swimmers, climbers and jumpers. This rat climbs along a plant stalk from the bug hotel to the sun dial to get some sunflower seeds, using its tail for balance.
It is very shy, it won’t eat on the sundial, but takes one seed goes and hides behind a log before coming out for another one. Over and over again.
When looking up about rats, apart from learning that they are giant cannibals intent on murdering us all in our beds, I learnt that their tail has a thermoregulatory function. Rats control their body temperature through their tails by dilating or constricting the blood vessels in their tail, dilated blood vessels allow for heat loss, while constricted blood vessels retain heat. Rats can lose 17% of their body heat through their tail.