Cotton Rat Facts, Identification, & Control
Sigmodon hispidus (Say & Ord)
The length of cotton rat starting from the head to the entire body ranges from 13.3 cm to 21.3 cm. The tail is between the length of 7.6 cm to 16.5 cm and the body is covered with hair. The hair on the body hides away the ear almost completely. The back of the rat is gray in color with a mixture of black while the underside is light colored.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
The rat is found in various part of the country. It is found in places ranging from Florida to California and north to Virginia and Kansas. This rat has also been found in the north in Illinois.
Cotton rats are considered to be agricultural pests. They feed on grass and breed in grassy environment. Some farming areas have suffered great damage on the row crops due to these rats. They build their nest on the ground or in shallow burrows and create trails on the grass as they travel.
Suburban and rural areas suffer more from cotton rats as they infest fields, lawns and gardens. Cotton rats can invade buildings if food is present however they are not exactly structural pest. Cotton rats are mostly seen in barns, garages and storage sheds. They can as well infest lake homes and hunting cabins that are barely used.
Cotton rats are very fertile as the female can produce up to nine litters in a year with an average of six young in litter. It takes a month for the young to become mature. The reproductive rate increases greatly in abundance of food while in food scarcity, the reproductive rate decreases.
Signs of a Cotton Rat Infestation
The presence of shallow burrows with multiple entrances or sighting of the rat is among the various signs of infestation.
Cotton rat is a host of Hantavirus making it medically important. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a result of the virus. Distribution of rat dropping or their carcasses can make the virus become airborne. A person might be infected after inhaling the virus. A Cotton rat is also known as host of murine typhus and plague.
Prevention of infestation is the first way of controlling rodent. To prevent the infestation of cotton rats keep the grass and weeds in the building very low. Ensure that every possible entry hole is sealed up.
Utmost caution must be taken when handling the droppings or carcass of this rat since it carries the virus for HPS.
Contact a pest control professional if your home has been infested by rats.