Rats and Mice

photo-brown-ratRats and mice spread a variety of diseases; many of which are serious and life-threatening. Both small and large rodent species can themselves be diseased, have droppings that spread disease, contaminate food, or be carriers of fleas and ticks that transmit disease. A rat and mouse proof house is a safer, healthier family environment.


Brown RatBlack RatDeer MouseCommon House MouseThe Meadow Vole

a.k.a. common rat, Norway rat, Norwegian rat, wharf rat

One of the largest species of rat, it has spread to all continents with the exception of Antarctica. They are common in Northern Virginia and the surrounding areas and often referred to as the Norway Rat. Brown Rats are mostly nocturnal and are great swimmers.

  • Description – Brown Rats can reach up to 10 inches in length, not including the tail, which can add an additional 10 inches to their overall length. They are typically dark gray or brown with lighter coloration on their belly and underparts. They can weigh up to over a pound but more typically weigh around half that.
  • Breeding, Social, and Life Cycle – In a suitable environment, females can produce up to five litters per year with an average of 7, but up to 14 young per litter. Rats live in hierarchical groups so when food is scarce, the rats at the lowest social level will die off first. The remaining rats will automatically increase their rate of reproduction as a result of population decreases.
  • Health Hazards – Not carriers of Bubonic Plague as their black rat counterparts, they have been known to carry such diseases as known to carry diseases such as Weil’s disease, cryptosporidiosis, Viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF), Q fever and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.
  • Prevention – The most effective means of prevention and often part of the treatment is removal of all food sources for these animals including good sanitation, proper disposal of garbage, removal of any animal or pet foods that might be openly available and rat-proofing any food storage.

Brown Rats being highly adaptive and considered to be one of the most difficult and aggressive of all animal pests, should be addressed by a trained professional.

a.k.a. Asian black rat, Ship Rat, Roof Rat, House Rat

Excellent climbers; abhorred as much for disease carried as they are for structural damage to homes and food contamination. Black rats – also known as the common house rat – permeate all areas of the US and beyond.

  • Description – the upper portion of the black rat ranges from black to light brown in color; undersides, grayish to whitish. Their sparsely haired tail is scaly and dark; representing more than half of their total body length of nearly16-inches. Ears are prominent.
  • Breeding, Social, and Life Cycle – the female breeds throughout the year; producing from 3 to 6 litters of up to 10 young each. When food is scarce, they regulate production of offspring;1 or 2 litters a year. Black rats generally congregate in social groups of up to 60 members; they live 2 to 3-years.
  • Health Hazards – black rats are well-known carriers of bubonic plague, also known as black death bubonic plague; caused by infected fleas.

Effective bubonic plague prevention and other disease prevention efforts include rat extermination. Most successfully handled by an experienced rodent exterminator using professional pest control measures.


Equally content living in people’s houses as they are in prairie, grasslands, brushy areas, and woodlands, the deer mouse covers a large geographic area. They consist of more than 100 subspecies; some differing greatly in appearance.

  • Description – a small rodent with a dark upper body and white under sides. Its bicolor tail, white feet (large hind feet), and prominent, leaf-like ears distinguish it from other mice.
  • Breeding, Social, and Life Cycle – females breed each month, producing up to 42 young every year. Female offspring born in early spring can begin reproducing by late summer. A male, several females, and young make up the basic social structure of a colony. Winter months they huddle together in groups of 10 or more in nests to stay warm. They live up to 8-years.
  • Health Hazards – the deer mouse is a notorious carrier of hanta virus disease; spread to humans through mouse droppings. Most common hanta virus symptoms include fever accompanied by chills, headache, nausea, abdominal and back pain; lasting from 3 to 7 days.

Small and large rodent control efforts can help protect your family from food contamination and mouse droppings. A mouse exterminator is your best pest and disease control expert resource; seek advice on how to handle or avoid mouse infestation in your home.


The common house mouse prefers residential settings and runs rampant throughout the US and all other areas of the world.

  • Description – light grayish brown to black upper body; nearly as dark belly. Ears and tail have little hair. Tails make up about half of total body length of 6 to 7 ½-inches.
  • Breeding, Social, and Life Cycle – after courting rituals, the female house mouse will breed throughout the year; giving birth to litters of 3 to 14 young. Young begin breeding within 5 weeks after birth. Territorial by nature, clans dwelling in the same house respect each other’s claimed space. A dominant male usually coexists with several females and young. A highly nomadic rodent, it is a man against mouse battle to keep them out of homes, where they thrive best; living three times longer than in the wild.
  • Health Hazards – as the second most populous mammal on earth, house mice prefer to live close to humans. As with other species of mice, the danger of mouse droppings contaminating food and spreading disease makes mouse infestation a serious problem. Besides infecting people with disease, mice as well as rats chew and shred furniture, walls, floors, and electrical wires – sometimes starting fires.

Sometimes referred to as a field mouse or meadow mouse, the meadow vole is abundant; found throughout the United States, Canada, and Alaska.

  • Description – short legged with a blunt head and chunky, cylindrical body 6 to 7.5-inches long. Color ranges from yellowish, reddish, or grayish brown to dark brown; with gray, silver tipped hair under parts. Tail is short, darker on top; between 1 and 2.5-inches long. Voles have small, non-descript ears.
  • Breeding, Social, and Life Cycle – females have 3 to 6 litters during low population times; 8 to 10 during peak. Litters average 4 to 7 young each. Active year round, groups will live in close proximity to others, although they are aggressive; especially males during breeding seasons. In the wild, life expectancy is under a year; in “protected” households or captivity, 3 times longer.
  • Health Hazards – like other small and large rodents, the meadow vole is a health threat. It is an identified carrier of deer ticks; infamous for spreading Lyme disease.



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