How Norway Rats Live Socially

Whether for good or for ill, Norway rats have a large impact on our lives. We all know them as pests that spread filth and disease, but they were also fundamental to some of the most advanced scientific research in the world. This contrast makes them interesting animals, but we still don’t know much about their natural behavior in the wild. However, recent lab studies have shown that they have complex social skills while they are in captivity. By understanding how rats behave socially in nature, new pest control methods can be put in place to protect certain environments or areas from infestation, and remove heavy populations when they occur.

Nearly all wild Norway rats live close to a human settlement, which leads to many unwanted interactions between us and them. Rats are known for carrying and spreading disease, destroying food stores, and damaging the infrastructure of buildings by gnawing on insulation and on electrical wires. One estimate puts the cost of dealing with rats at at least two billion dollars per year. Norway rats are also predators, and since they are an invasive species pretty much everywhere outside of Asia, they can damage the balance of an ecosystem.

Human beings have attempted to control rat populations since medieval times, but control is now more important than ever, considering the massive human population numbers and density growth in cities. One of the big risks is the spread of new diseases that can lead to a pandemic. So what can we learn about wild Norway rat behavior to lower this risk.

One of the main traits of wild rats is their ability to adapt to new environments and behave in socially compatible ways with other rats. When compared to domesticated lab rats, the wild rats will burrow less, learn at a slower pace, and present more aggression towards other rats. Domesticated rats are also very adaptable, being able to successfully reproduce under natural conditions even if predators are present, despite many generations of domestication.

With further field studies, researchers could be able to devise control methods that affect large areas of land and big rat populations. For now however, we will have to deal with rat infestations on a building by building basis, using traditional methods such as trapping or poisons. If you would like to know more about how Norway rat infestations are removed, or if you would like to set up a pest control appointment, contact us today.

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