Ever wondered where Brown Rats come from, what Brown Rats eat, how long Brown Rats live for, where Brown Rats nest or any other facts about Brown Rats? Then look no further as this video covers all of those things plus plenty more interesting Brown Rat facts.
Brown rats are one of the most successful mammals on the planet and have lived alongside humans for thousands of years but it may be surprising to hear that didn’t arrive in the UK until the 1700s when its suspected they stowed away on ships from Russia. They gradually colonised the countryside, towns and cities displacing the already present black rat as they went.
As their name suggests, brown rats have an overall greyish brown appearance with a long hairless and scaly looking tail. They have large bare ears, black beady eyes and a pointed nose. They usually weight between 2 and 300 grams and measure around 20cm from their nose to the base of their tail, however, sometimes they can grow very large with some reaching more than 600 grams and having bodies of upto 30cm long.
Brown rats can live in any habitat where they can find something to eat, and as their diet is extensive that means they can be found pretty much everywhere. They will eat everything from human scarps and waste, other animal food, eggs, birds, amphibians, grain and vegetables. Some rats have even become immune to the poisons that people try to put out for them and can eat it without any lasting negative affects.
Male brown rats are called bucks whilst females are called does. They often live in large colonies with a defined hierarchical structure with some bucks and does being more dominant than others. These colonies mainly live in underground burrows which they dig themselves but where they live in towns and cities the colonies can also be found in abandoned buildings, cellars, sewers and attics.
Alongside their extensive diets there is a second reason that brown rats have been so successful at colonising the planet, their reproduction. Each doe can start breeding from just 3 months of age and can produce 5 litters in a year with as many as 12 pups being born at a time. This breeding can take place at any time throughout the year but reaches a peak in the late spring and summer. Each doe may mate with several bucks multiple times but given the dominant bucks are more likely to be the fittest, they are also the most likely to be the fathers of any pups that are born. The does are only pregnant for 21 days before they give birth to their hairless and blind young in a well hidden nest. She takes care of these young without any help and will move them from one nest to another if she thinks they are in any danger. The pups grow really fast and by just three weeks of age they are weaned from their mothers milk and from four weeks onwards they can be fully independent.
Brown rats are not a species without controversy, millions of pounds is spent every year in the UK in an attempt to control this species and they are disliked by a lot of people. However they are also loved by lots of people. This is partly due to their intelligence and tenacity. Being social they can communicate with each other through a series of squeaks, grunts and hisses and their domesticated cousins make excellent pets. They can be trained to follow commands and in the wild are capable of problem solving beyond the capacity of most other animals.
Aside from the direct conflict brown rats have with people, they also face other dangers living amongst us. They often fall victim to predation by cats and die from collisions with cars. They also have natural predators such as birds of prey, foxes and otters. The average life expectancy for a rat in the wild is less than one year but in exceptional instances they can survive as much as three years and one domesticated animals made it to a whopping 7 years and 4 months of age. Population estimates for brown rats in the UK vary massively but there is thought to be around 80 million of them living here and some studies show that their numbers are rising.
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