CSIRO Publishing blank image blank image blank image blank imageBooksblank image blank image blank image blank imageJournalsblank image blank image blank image blank imageAbout Usblank image blank image blank image blank imageShopping Cartblank image blank image blank image You are here: Journals > Wildlife Research   
Wildlife Research
Journal Banner
  Ecology, Management and Conservation in Natural and Modified Habitats
 
blank image Search
 
blank image blank image
blank image
 
  Advanced Search
   

Journal Home
About the Journal
Editorial Board
Contacts
Content
Online Early
Current Issue
Just Accepted
All Issues
Special Issues
Sample Issue
For Authors
General Information
Notice to Authors
Submit Article
Open Access
For Referees
General Information
Review Article
Referee Guidelines
Annual Referee Index
For Subscribers
Subscription Prices
Customer Service
Print Publication Dates

blue arrow e-Alerts
blank image
Subscribe to our Email Alert or RSS feeds for the latest journal papers.

red arrow Connect with us
blank image
facebook twitter youtube

 

Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 39(3)

Uncovering the secret lives of sewer rats (Rattus norvegicus): movements, distribution and population dynamics revealed by a capture–mark–recapture study

Ann-Charlotte Heiberg A, Vincent Sluydts B and Herwig Leirs A B C

A Danish Pest Infestation Laboratory, Dept. of Integrated Pest Management, Aarhus University, Forsøgsvej 1, DK-4200 Slagelse, Denmark.
B Evolutionary Ecology Group, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171, B-2020 Antwerpen, Belgium.
C Corresponding author. Email: herwig.leirs@ua.ac.be

Wildlife Research 39(3) 202-219 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR11149
Submitted: 12 August 2011  Accepted: 11 January 2012   Published: 23 April 2012


 
PDF (1.3 MB) $25
 Export Citation
 Print
  
Abstract

Context.: In many parts of the world, brown rats have colonised sewer systems and the rat populations in sewers are often thought to be a source of problems with rats on the surface. The management of sewer rat populations is usually performed with little, if any, knowledge of the dynamics and behaviour of these populations.

Aims.: The study aimed to uncover the population dynamics, movements and distribution of rats in populations living in sewers.

Methods.: We studied rats in a capture–mark–recapture study in two adjacent but separate sewer systems in suburban Copenhagen, Denmark, covering a surface area of 30 Ha. Multiple-capture live traps were placed in manholes in public sewers; animals were marked individually and data were collected every fourth week for a period of almost 3 years.

Key results.: In total, 332 individual rats were trapped. Approximately one-third were only caught once, half of these were juveniles. The median time an individual was present in the sewers was 4 months with maxima up to 22 months. Abundance ranged from 2 to 44 animals per sewer system and the dynamics showed no regular fluctuations. Rats were distributed throughout the study area, regardless of sewer dimensions. Juvenile rats were captured more in the smaller and drier sewer sections. Activity areas of rats of both sexes overlapped partially, and observations of bite wounds were rare, suggesting a high degree of tolerance. The average maximal distance covered by rats was ~200 m for both sexes. Day-to-day movements took place over shorter distances. There were no movements of rats between sewer systems and no sewer rats were observed to be active on the surface. The rat populations seemed to be substructured in smaller groups.

Conclusions.: Sewer rat populations vary irregularly in abundance. Pipe dimensions are not important for the presence of rats but breeding seems concentrated in smaller and drier pipes. Most individuals are resident and live in small groups that are active in a limited area only, but still there is a fair group of dispersing rats.

Implications.: Sewer rat management should be spread out spatially in a sewer system since most rats move over short areas only. Recolonisation by dispersing rats must be taken into account if sewer systems are connected. It is likely that targeting smaller and drier pipes will affect reproductive success.



References

Abdelkrim, J., Pascal, M., Calmet, C., and Samadi, S. (2005). Importance of assessing population genetic structure before eradication of invasive species: examples from insular Norway rat populations. Conservation Biology 19, 1509–1518.
CrossRef |

Barnett, S. A., and Bathard, A. H. (1953). Population dynamics of sewer rats. The Journal of Hygiene 51, 483–491.
CrossRef | CAS |

Bentley, E. W., Bathard, A. H., and Riley, J. D. (1959). The rates of recovery of sewer rat populations after poisoning. The Journal of Hygiene 57, 291–298.
CrossRef | CAS |

Bishop, J. A., and Hartley, D. J. (1976). The size and age structure of rural populations of rattus norvegicus containing individuals resistant to the anticoagulant poison warfarin. Journal of Animal Ecology 45, 623–646.
CrossRef |

Calhoun, J. B. (1962). The ecology and sociology of the Norway rat. Public Health Service Publication No. 1008. U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

Channon, D. E., Cole, M., and Cole, L. (2000). A long-term study of Rattus norvegicus in the London borough of Enfield using baiting returns as indicator of sewer population levels. Epidemiology and Infection 125, 441–445.
CrossRef | CAS |

Channon, D. E., Channon, T., Roberts, T., and Haines, R. (2006). Hotspots: are some areas of sewer network prone to re-infestation by rats (Rattus norvegicus) year after year. Epidemiology and Infection 134, 41–48.
CrossRef | CAS |

Colvin, B. A., Swift, T. B., and Fothergill, F. E. (1998). Control of Norway rats in sewer and utility systems using pulsed baiting methods. In ‘Proceedings of Eighteenth Vertebrate Pest Conference’. (Eds R. O. Baker and A. C. Crabb.) pp. 247–253. (University of California: Davis, CA.)

Davis, D. E., and Christian, J. J. (1956). Source changes in Norway rat populations induced by introduction of rats. The Journal of Wildlife Management 20, 378–383.
CrossRef |

Gardner-Santana, L. C., Norris, D. E., Fornadel, C. M., Hinson, E. R., and Klein, S. L. (2009). Commensal ecology, urban landscapes, and their influence on the genetic characteristics of city-dwelling Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus). Molecular Ecology 18, 2766–2778.
CrossRef | CAS |

Glass, G. E., Korch, G. W., and Childs, J. E. (1988). Seasonal and habitat differences in growth rates of wild Rattus norvegicus. Journal of Mammalogy 69, 587–592.
CrossRef |

Gratz, N. G. (1994). Rodents as carriers of diseases. In ‘Rodent Pests and their Control’. (Eds A. P. Buckle and R. H. Smith.) pp. 85–108. (CAB International, Wallingford, UK.)

Heiberg, A.-C. (2009). Anticoagulant resistance: a relevant issue in sewer rat (Rattus norvegicus) control? Pest Management Science 65, 444–449.
CrossRef | CAS |

Lambert, M. S., Quy, R. J., Smith, R. H., and Cowan, D. P. (2008). The effect of habitat management on home-range size and survival of rural rat populations. Journal of Applied Ecology 45, 1753–1761.
CrossRef |

Langton, S. D., Cowan, D. P., and Meyer, A. N. (2001). The occurrence of commensal rodents in dwellings as revealed by the 1996 English House Condition Survey. Journal of Applied Ecology 38, 699–709.
CrossRef |

Leirs, H., Lodal, J., and Knorr, M. (2004). Factors correlated with the presence of rodents on outdoor pig farms in Denmark and suggestions for management strategies. Netherlands Journal of Agricultural Science 52, 145–161.

Lund, M. (1994). Commensal rodents. In ‘Rodent Pests and their Control’. (Eds A. P. Buckle and R. H. Smith.) pp. 23–44. (CAB International, Wallingford, UK.)

Mantel, N. (1967). The detection of disease clustering and a generalized regression approach. Cancer Research 27, 209–220.
| CAS |

McGuire, B., Pizzuto, T., Bemis, W. E., and Getz, L. L. (2006). General ecology of a rural population of Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) based in intensive live trapping. American Midland Naturalist 155, 221–236.
CrossRef |

Meyer, A. (2004). Rats in sewers – out of sight – out of mind? Professional Pest Control 37, 4–7.

R Development Core Team (2010). R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. Available at http://www.R-project.org/ [Verified 16 April 2012].

Rexstad, K. P., and Burnham, K. P. (1992). User’s guide for interactive program CAPTURE. (Colorado Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO.)

Robertson, B. C., and Gemmell, N. J. (2004). Defining eradication units to control invasive pests. Journal of Applied Ecology 41, 1042–1048.
CrossRef |

Singleton, G. R., Leirs, H., Hinds, L. A., and Zhang, Z. (1999). Ecologically-based management of rodent pests – re-evaluating our approach to an old problem. In ‘Ecologically-based Rodent Management’. (Eds G. R. Singleton, L. A. Hinds, H. Leirs and Z. Zhang.) pp. 17–29. (Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research: Canberra.)

Stroud, D. C. (1982). Dynamics of Rattus rattus and R. norvegicus in a riparian habitat. Journal of Mammalogy 63, 151–154.
CrossRef |

Twigg, G. (1975). The town rat. In ‘The Brown Rat’. pp. 76–91. (David and Charles Inc.: Newton Abbot, London.)

Venables, W. N., and Ripley, B. D. (2002). Modern Applied Statistics with S. (4th edition). (Springer: New York, NY.)

Ward, J. H. (1963). Hierarchical grouping to optimize an objective function. Journal of the American Statistical Association 58, 236–244.
CrossRef |

White, G. C., Anderson, D. R., Burnham, K. P., and Otis, D. L. (1982). Capture–recapture and removal methods for sampling closed populations. LA-8787-NERP, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM.


   
Subscriber Login
Username:
Password:  

 
    
Legal & Privacy | Contact Us | Help

CSIRO

© CSIRO 1996-2014