Norway Rat: Identification and Treatment

Last updated: 6/16/21
Estimated read time: 4 minutes


What type of pest can measure up to 26 inches in length and cause hundreds of thousands of deaths? The answer is the Norway rat, and if you live in Maryland or Northern Virginia, then you need to be on the lookout for this dangerous rodent.

What is a Norway Rat?

The Norway rat, also known as a street rat, sewer rat, or brown rat, is commonly associated with carrying deadly diseases, such as the Bubonic Plague or Black Death in the 14th century. Norway rats remain a major problem today, and, along with deer mice, brown mice, and field mice, are one of the most common types of rodents to infest homes in Maryland and Northern Virginia. Unlike other species, the Norway rat is not an agile climber and prefers to operate on ground level, relying on its ability to run, jump, and swim. Knowing what Norway rats look like, where they live, and how to get rid of them will help you stay safe from the dangers of an infestation.

What do Norway Rats Look Like?

When you picture a rat, you’re probably picturing something similar to a Norway rat. With their shaggy brown or gray coats, bald tails, ears, and noses, and bulging eyes, the Norway rat looks like the standard rodent. Their size, however, exceeds that of most other rats and mice common to the area. Their bodies typically measure from 12-18 inches in length and their tails from 5-8 inches meaning these rodents can be as long as 26 inches! If the idea of a rat this large alarms you, you may be slightly reassured to know that the average Norway rat is closer to 16 inches. When it comes to this species of rodent, you’ll likely know it when you see it.

Where do Norway Rats Live?

The short answer to the question is they live wherever people are. Although the species originally preferred to make its home in forests, these rats can now be found dwelling in fields, farmlands, buildings, sewers, and urban areas across all continents of the world.

Indoor Norway rat infestations frequently occur during cooler months when food scarcity drives rodents to make their habitat inside homes and other buildings. Preferring lower levels to attics and roofs, this large rodent can frequently be found in basements and near piles of debris. Another important thing to know about their habitats is that Norway rats are social pests and often build their burrows close to one another. Spotting a Norway rat in your home usually means discovering an infestation.

Are Norway Rats Dangerous?

Finding any rat or mouse in your home is alarming, but Norway rats are particularly dangerous. Some reasons to take a Norway rat infestation seriously include:

  • They continue to carry a wide range of dangerous diseases including jaundice, cowpox virus, rat-bite fever, salmonellosis, and trichinosis.
  • They can bring fleas and mites into your home. In fact, it was the fleas they carried, not the rats themselves, that caused the Bubonic Plague, which killed 20 million Europeans between 1347-1350.
  • They can destroy the structural integrity of your home by chewing through walls, wires, and anything else they can get their teeth on.
  • They can contaminate your food and track filth into your home.

How To Get Rid of Norway Rats

Because of the many dangers associated with Norway rats, it is important to take action as soon as you discover signs of infestation. If you’ve spotted ¾ inch long, rounded droppings, gnaw marks on food containers or structures, grease stains on walls and doorways at rat height, or outdoor burrows, then it’s time to take action. Here are some ways you can get rid of Norway rats safely and effectively:

  • Eliminate food sources including open trash cans, unsealed pantry items, pet food, and bird food.
  • Remove water sources by fixing any leaks in plumbing and sprinklers and removing open containers of water both indoors and outdoors.
  • Seal up any openings to your home including cracks beneath doors and windows, openings near the foundation of your home, and vents.
  • Use EPA-approved store-bought rodent repellents and treatments available.
  • Experiment with different types of bait and traps, ensuring that bait stations are placed strategically and monitored regularly.
  • Use natural rat repellents and DIY solutions in your treatment plan, keeping in mind that they may not be 100% effective on their own.
  • Call a professional pest control company to come in and safely and permanently get rid of the rats living in your home.

If a Norway rat infestation isn’t the kind of pest problem you want to tackle on your own, BOG Pest Control is here to help. Contact us for more information about our top-quality rodent control in Maryland and Northern Virginia!

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