By Cornelius Swart
PORTLAND –The roof rat, also known as the black rat or ship rat was once famous for spreading Europe’s Black Plague. The nocturnal rodents spend about 90 percent of their lives four or more feet off the ground. They’re dark grey or black with no hair on their ears and can measure 15 inches long from their heads to the end of their long scaly tails.
Roof rats nest outside in trees, wood piles, and dense vegetation. But they also climb power lines and can run right into a house. They can squeeze through any hole larger than a quarter.
Chris Roberts is Multnomah County’s lone rat inspector. He takes about 1,000 calls for rat problems each year. The majority turn out to be for the larger common ground rat, or Norway Rat.
“Normally I get about four or five calls that turn out to be roof rats,” Roberts said.
This year, so far he’s seen 40 to 50 roof rat cases.