Sick, bored and curious...[where do rats live in the wild?]

…where do rats live in the wild?

a) Underground and in hollows, sheltered places; they burrow.

b) Why are you thinking about rats when you’re sick? Do you have the plague or something?


Wherever they want to.

They are one of the species like deer and squirrels that thrive among human habitation. There becomes more and more of them the denser the infrastructure becomes like sewers and subway tunnels as well as mundane places like basements in houses and garages. I have never seen one out in the wide open unless it is in some sort of trash dump or barn with some sort of grain food in it. They are stealthy in their travels and fairly bright. They can hide really, really well too even in a concrete room with little in it and no crevices to hide in (trust me on that. I overturned a whole rack of them once and it took days to find all of them in a totally secure room).

I worked with hundreds, perhaps thousands of rats in undergrad and grad school. I never could stand them even when 40 or so of them were used in one of my neuroscience experiments. None of them ever bit me but they did bite all of my fellow students and it could be nasty. Whenever an experiment that spanned months ended, the females and some of the males could not bring themselves to decapitate them or put them in a CO2 chamber for execution. I always stepped up to the plate and I could kill 40 or so in two hours will keeping the brain intact for study. That joy was not smiled upon and it is a big reason I got out of graduate school.

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General Questions Moderator

I live in Maui County in Hawaii, and we have an incredible wild rat problem here. I’ve seen them all over the place, from sugar cane fields, to rainforest jungle. They mainly eat fruit and avocados where I live on the North Shore of the island, and there is no shortage of either of those. You can hear them at night, scurrying around in the trees getting food. I’ve seen some pretty big ones too, but not as huge as NYC or Philly sewer rats. Those things are nasty.

Something that the geniuses of times past thought would be a great idea was to introduce the Indian mongoose to a few of the islands here, in order to deal with the rat problem. Unfortunately, what they failed to realize was that although the mongoose will kill rats when possible, rats are nocturnal, and the mongoose is active during the day. So now, there are mongoose everywhere too, because they have no natural predators here. Feral cats as well.

We’ve got woodrats around here (and I suspect you do up in Washington as well) that will build surprisingly large (like basketball-sized) nests out of twigs, sticks, and other bits of vegetation. Rat nests are also called ‘middens’ and it might help to search under that term if you’re curious.

This is along the lines of what I was wondering. Have rats always stuck near human habitation or do they also live in the wild away from people?

Thanks, I’ll be looking that up.

The appropriately named Rat Island in the Rat Islands archipelago (Aleutian Islands, Alaska) is one such example of the rat living in the wild where there is no permanent human presence.

The cause of the rat influx to Rat Island was a shipwreck. The arrival of a ship, wrecked or otherwise, has often been the cause of rat introduction to remote locations with low or zero human populations.