There are three main pest species of mice and
rats in Australia, they are:-
1. The Brown Rat
(Rattus norvegius). Other common names
- The common rat, sewer rat, brown rat, and
This animal will eat all human and animal foods
including stock feed like grain, pelletised
foods etc. It needs access to a regular
supply of water and is susceptible to liquid
It adapts well to a rural outdoor existence and
will live outside in the summer months but
indoors during the winter months or may live
inside all the year round. Lives in burrows
and will dominate the Black Rat, (Rattus
rattus), in situations of co-existence.
Its territory is around 40 - 50 metres from home
base and is defended according to a "pecking"
order. They are, however, very neophobic
(fearful of new things).
In summary the Brown rat prefers:-
Occurs in sewers, creeks and canals,
and prefers rural areas.
2. Black Rat
(Rattus rattus). Also known as the
This animal prefers vegetables and fruits in
preference to dry foods and consequently is less
dependent on a regular water supply due to the
moisture content of its preferred diet. They
live mainly indoors and around ports and
harbours. They are great climbers and can
cross from building to building or ship to ship
on cables, ropes and suchlike. If forced to
live outside they prefer vines and trees in
which to nest, rather than burrows. They can
infest ships very quickly and would be a prime
target for quarantine officers. Their home
range is similar to that of the Brown Rat.
In summary the Black Rat:-
Does not burrow.
Is a very good climber.
Is a poor swimmer.
Is rarely found in sewers and prefers high
Both rat species tend to sit and eat from a
single food source.
3. House Mouse
(Mus domesticus). Sometimes erroneously
called the field mouse.
Mice are omnivorous to such an extent that they
will eat virtually any food source and can
survive on the moisture extracted from grain but
will need a water supply if they are feeding on
cereals. They tend to eat small amounts of
foods at various locations and are curious and
exploratory feeders with a territory of some 3 -
10 metres from the nest. Mice are not as
neophobic (fear of new things) as rats.
In summary Mice:-
Make burrows and nests.
Are found in most places, indoors and outside,
and do not occur in sewers (Turtles, which
are found in sewers, will eat
Their sight is poor and have difficulty in
determining images, creating a heavy reliance
the sense of touch, but their sense of smell is
extremely keen and can detect odours in foods
which make the choice of baits important.
They also have a very keen sense of taste and
can associate sickness with tastes and smells
which would make it important to vary the bait
type. They have likes and dislikes and can
develop "bait shyness". Their sense of
hearing is also acute which extends into the
ultrasonic. Touch is extremely sensitive,
using their whiskers and hair to "feel" their
way around at night.
All these species have a dominant male i.e.
"King Rat" who will spoil baits to ensure rivals
don't eat them.
Things to look for if you suspect a rodent
Runways, rub marks and grease smears usually on
Evidence of gnawing.
Tracks and droppings.
Strange noises, particularly at night.
Watch your own animals reactions.
The preceding information is provided with the
kind permission of
Adelaide Pest Control,
North East Road,
Ph. 08 8344 8181.