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Rats may not only be destructive inside a home, but they can destroy things outside a home as well. Inside a house they chew through wires and materials, but outside of a house, they dig holes in garden beds and lawns. The holes are sometimes mistaken for other animals because people are unaware that rats do, in fact, dig holes.
Rats dig burrows in the ground to protect them from predators. They gnaw at the ground with their teeth and use their claws to dig into the soil, making holes that often consist of more than one entrance, and they may plug the entrances with soil to maintain a constant temperature and relative humidity. They usually dig the burrows in sandy soil or near shrubs where the wind has deposited loose soil. The holes usually measure 2 to 4 inches in diameter. The burrows protect the rats from predators and harsh weather and allow them to store food. Some rats may hibernate in the holes during cold winter months.
Mating and Birthing
Rats enter the holes to mate and birth their young. They often breed throughout the year, particularly between April and June or during September or October. Sometimes after giving birth, the mother rat blocks the main entrance and only uses the rear entrance.
Rats dig tunnels leading to and from their holes and to other burrows. They may build an entire system of tunnels, which lead to different chambers used for sleeping, food storage and living. Mounds of dirt can be seen on the soil surface around rat burrows that consist of many tunnels. The dirt is brought up as they dig more tunnels. The multiple tunnels and entrances allow the rats to escape predators. If a predator enters from one tunnel, the rats can escape through another.
Rats sometimes live in colonies, which consist of multiple burrows. Colonies may consist of as many as 35 rats per acre of land. The burrows are spaced to allow for food sources within reasonable travel distances. Travel lanes are sometimes seen between the entrances, and there are often more entrances than there are rats.
- "Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage, Volume 2"; Scott E. Hygnstrom, et al.; 1994
- "Lions and Other Mammals"; Andrew Solway; 2006
- Anup Shah/Photodisc/Getty Images