Roof Rat

Actual Size: 13-15” long including the tail

Characteristics: Slender. Typically grayish to dark gray to black.

Habitat: True to name, they live and build nests off the ground by climbing canopies and vines.


  • Also known as the “black rat”  or “ship rat”.
  • Roof rats are a nocturnal species.
  • While scavengers by nature, they tend to be a little pickier about what they will eat.
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Roof Rats in Nevada

Roof rats are often confused for Norway rats, but they are typically much smaller in size. As their name implies, roof rats tend to find shelter higher up in buildings and on roofs. They are found worldwide and cause homeowners around the country a lot of grief each year. Unlike Norway rats, roof rats have large features, a pointed nose, and a scaly tail. They are omnivorous and will eat just about anything they can get access to. That said, they prefer to feed on seeds, nuts, fruits, slugs, snails, cockroaches, and other insects. For the most part, roof rats are nocturnal and prefer cool weather. Because they live in colonies, roof rats tend to be social and will hunt in groups at night.

Roof Rat Habitat

True to name, roof rats prefer shelter above ground, such as dense shrubs and climbing vines. These rats have pads on their feet to facilitate better climbing of narrow vines and limbs, and their tail also assists to balance when climbing high up off the ground. Roof rats generally begin searching for food shortly after sunset, using trees, utility lines and fences to gain access to attics, overhead garage storage, wood piles and other stored goods. Roof rats are nocturnal and scurrying sounds in the attic at night are often the first sign of a roof rat infestation in homes.

Roof Rat Behaviors & Dangers

Salmonella, leptospirosis, and rat bite fever are among the dozens of diseases spread by roof rats. When foraging for food, roof rats contaminate food meant for humans, pets and livestock. Roof rats are omnivores, eating both plants and animals, and are very fond of citrus fruit. They also favor pet food, pet feces, bird seed, meat and grease, infesting storage sheds and bbq’s. Besides spreading disease, roof rats may cause extensive damage when nesting in walls and attics. Chewed, exposed wires inside walls can spark, causing interior walls to catch fire.

If you have noticed roof rat in or near your Las Vegas area home, contact your local rodent exterminators for help!