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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Unexpected rat of marsh and swamp

Sacramento Valley farmers call them rice rats, a fitting but incorrect name for a rodent associated with rice fields.

True rice rats (genus Oryzomys) are natives of the southern US and beyond into South America.

Most likely these guys are Norway rats, stowaways from Asia that arrived with Spaniards and English seafarers.

In this neck of the Sac Valley they are abundant and at home in water and on land.

Many times I've glimpsed them in the beams of head lights on the road shoulder.

And I've flushed many a barn owl there too, which leads me to speculate that the rats may be a fatal attraction and one reason why Barny takes so many hits on the roads.

From our camera trapping results I can tell you that these rats also live in the riparian woodlands.

They're tough, and they're here to stay.

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