A Guide to the Most Common Rodents in New York

By Pestech Pest Solutions

A Guide to the Most Common Rodents in New York

New York is the most populous U.S. city, but humans aren’t the only inhabitants — countless rats and other rodents have also made their home in the Big Apple. Brown and black rats arrived in America about 250 years ago on ships from Europe and Asia.

But rats are not the only concerning rodents in the state. This article explores the most common types of rodents in New York state and discusses the dangers of rodent infestations.

New York’s Rodent Population

Chicago has been home to America’s largest rat population for nine consecutive years, closely followed by Los Angeles. However, New York’s rat community has increased by an estimated 1 million in the past decade, swelling to approximately 3 million rats. These numbers continue to grow.

One of the primary causes of the increasing rat population in New York is the abundance of waste in the city — a tempting buffet for rodents who feast on the food scraps. Most rodents use familiar routes, frequenting areas where they have found food before.

In addition to rats, mice, squirrels and chipmunks are other rodents that plague New York property owners. These rodent populations are smaller, with over 2,000 squirrels living in Central Park.

Identifying the Most Common Rodents in New York

Knowing which rodents could threaten your property and health is essential. In this list of common rodents in New York, we’ll discuss the characteristics of each rodent so you know what to look for.

Identifying the Most Common Rodents in New York

Rats — The Dominant Rodent in Urban Areas

There are two primary types of rats in most parts of the urban world — brown and black rats. Brown rats, otherwise known as Norway rats, are larger, with grayish-brown fur and stubby snouts. Their tails are also shorter than their bodies, unlike black rats, which are smaller with longer tails. Black rats, or roof rats, have medium-sized ears and small, beady black eyes, but their dark charcoal coat makes them relatively easy to identify.

Packrats or wood rats are another urban-dwelling rodent. Packrats have the most pronounced ears and eyes of all these rats. Marsh rats are smaller rodents but can cause as much damage as their counterparts.

Black rats, packrats and brown rats frequent urban areas, living in sewers, dumpsters and tight spots in commercial and residential properties. Rats can damage plastic and metal pipes. They can also gnaw through soft concrete and can be aggressive toward humans, unlike mice.

Deer Mice — The Deer-Like Rodents

Many people assume mice are only small rats, but they are two different species. Deer mice are identifiable by their reddish-brown fur and white underbellies. They can grow up to eight inches long and are superior jumpers, like their namesake. These mice can build nests in tree hollows, fence posts and other tiny spaces.

While deer mice prefer less trafficked areas, they can still invade garden sheds, attics, crawlspaces and basements. Spotting them can be tricky because they prefer to nest in quieter locations. Mice are unlikely to be aggressive around humans, though they can still cause property damage.

House Mouse — Ubiquitous Residents Across the U.S.

Among the types of mice in New York, house mice are slightly more challenging to see than deer mice, though they are more likely to move into your home. These tiny mice are slender and about three-quarters of an inch long, so they easily squeeze through the smallest spaces. These animals have pointy noses, bare ears and light brown coats with slightly darker fur down their back.

Unlike deer mice, the average house mouse can become comfortable around humans — often bolting out from under furniture to deliver jump scares.

Squirrels and Chipmunks — The Less Suspected Rodents

Squirrels are small rodents with long, bushy tails, while chipmunks are even smaller and have stripes running vertically down their backs. These rodents share a family lineage, though they are two different species. While they tend to live outdoors in trees and bushes, they may seek shelter and food in your home during winter, when the weather is less forgiving.

While squirrels and chipmunks may seem cuter and less alarming than rats and mice, they can still cause property damage. These rodents will gnaw through pipes, flooring and insulation to find a way into your home and nest in spaces like the attic.

Unlike rats and mice, squirrels and chipmunks are not nocturnal. These rodents are active during the day, and New Yorkers often spot them scurrying around their yards for food.

The Health Risks of Rodent Infestations

Rodents can cause immense property damage, but they also pose several health risks. While rats and mice are known disease carriers, spreading plagues throughout history, squirrels and chipmunks can also carry diseases.

The Health Risks of Rodent Infestations

Some of the most common diseases rats and mice carry include:

  • Hantavirus: This virus family can cause various syndromes, including hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, which can be fatal.
  • Leptospirosis: This bacterial disease causes a broad range of symptoms and liver and kidney damage. Contracting leptospirosis can also be fatal, though antibiotics can treat the disease.
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis: This viral infectious disease can cause sensory disturbances, motor abnormalities, brain inflammation and meningitis.
  • Tularemia: Otherwise known as rabbit fever, tularemia is a bacterial disease spread by wildlife.
  • Salmonella: This bacterial disease impacts the intestinal tract.
  • E. coli: This group of bacteria found in feces can cause bloodstream infections, diarrhea and respiratory illnesses.
  • Clostridium difficile: This bacterium causes colon damage, stomach pain and fever.

In addition to these known diseases, a study found rats in New York also carry the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans — SARS-CoV-2. These diseases spread through rodent saliva, feces and urine. Beyond infectious diseases, rodents also carry bacteria that can cause food poisoning and welcome fleas, mites, ticks and other parasites into your home. Each of these parasites hosts a world of other health concerns.

Understanding the Signs of Rodent Infestation in Homes and Businesses

While spotting a rodent is a definite sign of an infestation, most rodents prefer to stay out of sight. However, there are other signs to look for, because they tend to leave a trail of destruction behind.

  • Rodent droppings: One of the easier-to-spot signs of an infestation is finding rodent droppings. While you can find these anywhere in your home or business, common areas to inspect include around food packages and in hiding spaces like cupboards and drawers and behind appliances.
  • Signs of chewing: Even if you don’t find droppings, you might notice tooth marks on food packaging. Rodents can also rip up garbage bags and leave an enormous mess as they dig through trash to find food.
  • Holes in walls and floors: You probably have a rodent infestation if you notice small chewed holes in floors or walls. Rodents can gnaw through building materials to create entry points and find materials for their nests.
  • Musky or pungent odors: Rodents’ bodies can smell unpleasant, but the foul scent of urine and feces usually accompanies rat and rodent infestations. Odors will be more prevalent near nesting sites. If a rodent dies while nesting in your home, you will smell the repulsive odors of blood and decomposing flesh. In this case, contact a pest control service as soon as possible to dispose of the corpse safely.

The signs of an infestation can be severe or mild and hardly noticeable. Property owners might think a few droppings or a single mouse is nothing to worry about, allowing the problem to worsen. Rodents like rats can breed quickly, as females reach a fertile age between eight and 12 weeks old. They typically birth up to six litters per year, each of which can contain eight or more rat pups. As a result, two rats can produce a population of over 1,000 in just a year.

Reaching out to pest control services at the earliest signs of an infestation ensures rodents can’t continue to damage the property or pose concerning health risks. If you are unsure whether rodents are hiding in your home, scheduling an inspection with a service is worthwhile. Pest control experts will know how to spot the signs and locate nests.

Preventing Rodent Infestations — Practical Tips for New Yorkers

It is possible to keep your home rodent-free. Here’s how you can rodent-proof your property.

  • Inspect your property to seal up cracks, holes and insulation areas that may act as entry points.
  • Conceal food sources like pantries and cupboards.
  • Avoid leaving pet food bowls out in the evening.
  • Clean your kitchen daily to remove food scraps — dirty dishes are an attractive food source for rodents.
  • Keep trash outside — keeping garbage inside the kitchen will welcome rodents.
  • Secure the trash can to ensure rodents can’t get inside.

Preventing Rodent Infestations — Practical Tips for New Yorkers

While these efforts will keep rodents at bay, always contact a pest control service to manage an existing infestation. If rats breed in your home, cutting off food sources won’t solve the problem. Instead, call the pros to nip things in the bud before they spiral out of control.

Seasonal Rodents in New York — What to Expect Throughout the Year

Rodent season starts in autumn as the weather begins to cool. Rodents will seek food and shelter from the cold. They will burrow into properties and move in, uninvited, to nest in the best hiding places around your home or business.

Most rodents will spend more time outside when the weather warms and food sources are more abundant. Even if they spend less time in your home or business, that doesn’t mean they have moved out — rodents will keep revisiting their nest throughout the year.

FAQs About Rodents in New York

Rodent populations vary across the state. Knowing which New York state rodents are most likely to invade your property will help you keep them out.

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about rodents in New York.

What Kind of Rodents Are in Upstate New York?

Various breeds of mice and rats are unwanted residents of the Empire State. Voles, squirrels, chipmunks, lemmings, groundhogs and even porcupines are other rodents in upstate New York. However, some of these animals are more problematic and prevalent than others.

What Kind of Rats Are in New York?

Brown, black and marsh rats are common in New York. You are more likely to see black and brown rats than marsh rats.

What Is the Most Common Rat in New York?

Norway rats are the most prevalent in New York. The city’s rat population has proliferated in the past six decades, prompting Mayor Eric Adams to hire a “rat czar” to tackle the problem. Rat sightings have skyrocketed from over 10,000 to nearly 30,000, and these numbers continue to climb.

When Do Rats Come Out?

Rats and mice are generally afraid of human activity, though rats can be aggressive. However, they will leave their hiding places when disturbed or when they need to find food. Because rats are nocturnal, you are more likely to see them at night.

What’s the Difference Between Rats and Mice?

As mentioned above, rats and mice are different species. Mice are smaller and have different body shapes, hair, tails, nose shapes and nesting spots. Rats have pointier noses, hairless tails and dark fur, while rats often have hair on their tails, bigger ears and shorter noses. Rats are burrowers, while mice like to build nests with various materials.

Should I Be Worried if There Are Rats in My Yard?

If you see rats in your yard, they might not live inside your home. However, you should still contact a pest control service to repel them from your home. If they are already scoping out the area around your property, they will eventually find a way in. Rats can also damage your home’s exterior.

Partner With Pestech for a Rodent-Free Environment

Pestech is a reliable pest control service and the largest family-owned pest management center in New York. We prioritize each client with instant communication lines. We can handle even the most stubborn rodent infestations, and with a 100% satisfaction guarantee, you can rest assured you won’t need to share your home or business with rats or other rodents.

We offer tailored residential and commercial wildlife management services to protect your well-being and property from the damage rodents can cause. For professional pest control services, contact us online or call 800-284-2847.

Partner With Pestech for a Rodent-Free Environment