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Squirrel or Roof Rat in Attic?

By Chris Williams on February 23, 2015.

My husband found a rat’s nest in our attic with baby rats in it, but no mom nearby. Are these roof rats? He found an opening in a corner near the roofline where they must have come in. E. P., Peterborough, NH

baby gray squirrel

Baby gray squirrel

I would be surprised if you had roof rats in your attic. Roof rats don’t occur here in the Northeast except in unusual situations in coastal regions, usually when they have hitchhiked in on a ship. Our rats are brown rats or Norway rats and although they can get into houses, they usually don’t end up in attics. You need a professional experienced in nuisance wildlife to inspect your attic and determine what kind of animals you are dealing with.

Is your husband sure he wasn’t looking at baby squirrels instead? It’s much more likely to find a squirrel nesting in your attic. The roofline opening that you describe is a typical entry point for a squirrel (see How Do Squirrels Get into Attics?).

An Attic Makes a Cozy Nest Site

Once a squirrel gets into an attic, it will construct a nest of leaves and chewed-up paper or fabric, or it may tunnel into insulation or other soft materials. You can also find stockpiles of nuts, chewed twigs and bark, or strips of acorn shell stashed between attic joists or in voids. If a squirrel has established a nest site in an attic or other void, it’s very difficult to convince it to leave, especially if there are young. Your mom squirrel was probably out foraging and would be back with her young soon (see Baby Squirrels in the Attic!).

Have Openings and Potential Openings Sealed

Even if you never determine which animal was nesting in your attic, it’s important that you have some exclusion work done to keep animals from getting into your home again. At Colonial, we specialize in exclusion or pest-proofing — sealing of openings and reinforcing areas that could become openings for pests.

Don’t seal openings on your own unless you are very sure that the mother squirrel (or rat) is no longer in the attic space, and the babies have been removed. Sealing mom out will mean untended babies that will die and smell. See What to Know Before You Remove That Nuisance Squirrel for advice from the New Hampshire Department of Fish & Game.

Photo credit: audreyjm529 / Foter / CC BY

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