Common Areas of Mouse Activity

What Do Rat Holes Look Like – Burrows in Ground And Entry Points

Rats have surprisingly strong teeth and dexterous paws that they make full use of to burrow holes in the ground and other places. They can easily chew through wood, plastic, aluminum, and in some cases even concrete to create entry holes where none existed. These burrows are one of the early signs of a rat or rodent invasion in Toronto. It is important that you know how rats enter homes to defend yourself properly.

As you imagine what do rat holes look like – burrows in-ground and entry points readily come to mind. These holes can be destructive and easily brings your attention to the news of a big increase in rat activity in Toronto. An infestation of rats can damage your property and bring diseases into your home. Since do-it-yourself solutions prove to be costly in addition to their high rate of failure, you will need the services of a licensed pest control technician to conduct rat control in Toronto.

Rats Digging Holes in Backyard

Brown rat poking his head out of a nest hole on muddy ground
Brown rat poking his head out of a nest hole on muddy ground

Finding rat holes can be challenging which emphasizes the need to hire a licensed pest control technician. They appear as gaps created by crumbling mortar, cracks in a foundation, and so on. Rats prefer to access their nests through quiet areas which explains why you rarely find a rat hole in a doorway

If not for the strict pesticide regulations in Ontario, for instance, lots of homeowners may resort to the use of strong chemicals in their bid to get rid of these pests. While you may find over the counter products in Toronto they contain smaller concentrations of active ingredients.

Rats are a difficult pest to deal with and you need to be on the lookout for the following signs of an invasion. Remember they are good climbers. It means they can gain access into your home from various points such as access spaces for HVAC systems and electrical wiring. Signs of a rat problem include:

1. Droppings: If you notice rat droppings in your home as you clean it, that means this pest has gained access to your home. The droppings which resemble seeds are a bit shiny when they are fresh and become dark over time.

2. Bits Of Hair: It is also typical for rats to shed from time to time. So, be alert to bits of hair that may look black, gray, or tan following their squeezing through gaps or brushing up against a wall.

3. Tracks and Paths: Rats have the habit of using the same routes as they move around a home. This means that they leave tracks which may be evident through the dust that shows frequent tail drag marks or forefingers.

4. Strong Smell: Rats leave strong smells in the areas where they travel. So, if there is the smell of urine that you are not sure of, it means your home has been infested by rats.

5. Debris: Discovery of debris such as rubbish or wood chips reveal the presence of rats.

As you uncover rat holes, do not hesitate to block them without trapping the rat first. Blocking the holes may cause them to chew their way out but if they do not find a way out and die in your home, they decompose and emit a very terrible smell. A decomposed body may attract bacteria and other pests which would lead to a disaster.


Rat Hole In Garden

cantaloupes rotten fruit because a rat
cantaloupes rotten fruit because a rat

Having to deal with a rat problem in a garden full of crops, plants, and other types of vegetation can cause gardeners a lot of headaches, especially when it occurs around the time when it is time to harvest them. Rats are notorious for digging rat burrows under existing structures such as greenhouses, sheds, and even decks. If you do find a rat under there you will have to call a licensed pest control technician to deal with the problem aptly. Do-It-Yourself solutions available at garden centers are not going to do much due to strict regulations the provincial government places on the amount of active ingredient allowed in repellants. Another great alternative is to use exterior bait-stations, but there is one essential problem. It is not with the contraption itself, but with the way it needs to be deployed to be working effectively. Bait-stations are only effective dependant on their placement and it is professionals that know everything concerning their behavior that makes every case they treat so successful. The number one reason why a rat or in most cases several rats stay in your garden is because of how desirable it is since it gives such easy access to food. You can read how to deal with rats in the garden below with advice you can already start applying right away!

  • If you have a garden, chances are that you will probably have a bird feeder or squirrel feeder. While it is great to see wildlife feeding on your food, it gives rats the perfect opportunity to freeload off of fallen seeds, nuts, and grains. Stop feeding birds and squirrels to keep the rats at bay.
  • As previously mentioned before, rats dig burrows under existing man-made structures to give them that extra sense of comfort and security. If you do have a deck present, it is time to seal and proof the deck by sealing the sides and the flooring. Food can easily fall between the gaps which can provide a whole meal when accumulated.
  • Protect your crops and compost bin. Rats are known as opportunistic animals and will grab any chance to get their paws on anything edible, including food scraps you throw on the compost. Putting chicken wire underneath the heap may prevent the rats as well. This does not fully guarantee rats staying away, but it does help a fair amount. If you noticed that your crops have been nibbled on, you need to throw it away since rats can carry up to 35 diseases.

What Does a Rat Hole Look Like

What Does a Rat Hole Look Like
Typical Rat Burrow

The first distinct sign of a rat hole is the size of the entrance. The entrance will be roughly 2-4 inches in diameter and smooth and compacted from the rodents going in and out of the burrow. You’ll also notice fresh dirt just out of the entrance in a fan-shape created when the rodents excavate dirt from the hole.

Another distinct feature of rat holes is depth. These burrows are rarely more than 3 feet long and 18 inches deep. Deeper rat holes generally happen when the rodents are attempting to burrow past a barrier such as the building’s foundation or a concrete slab. The burrows also have a living or nesting area made out of soft debris such as grass, leaves, pieces of cloth, insulation or other material that is readily available.

These burrows also have additional exits or escape holes to get away from predators. These alternative exits aren’t always obvious at first glance and as they may be lightly filled with dirt or disguised under objects.

Do Rats Live Underground?

Rat peeking out of burrows in the ground
Rat peeking out of burrows in the ground

Yes, rats do live underground in a vast network of underground tunnels that are interconnected called burrows. As the population grows so does the extensive network which also in return causes a lot of problems in the future. Rat burrows usually have one opening they use for entering and exiting which leads to the main chamber where the food is stored. Some burrows have two exit and entry-points which gives the rat a fast way to escape. Several rats can be housed in the same burrows that are from distinct rat families even. As scarcity for food and water becomes apparent, territorial battles may pursue. Out of these fights, two types of rats will house the burrow. The dominant and the subordinate rat which are categorized as the weaker rats in the burrow. Since rats are nocturnal rodents, the rats prefer to eat and to be active at night. The subordinate rat is active and eats when the dominant rat is inactive during the daytime. Which explains the reason why you see rats in the daytime. This phenomenon is visible in larger populations.

Do Rats Dig Tunnels?

Rats do create intricate tunnels and a whole network of tunnels called burrows. They use their limbs to tunnel their way in. But if you take a look between the anatomical differences it already becomes apparent that the rat is a multi-tasker as compared to the mole. Rats have limitations to what depth their burrows can take on. The average depth for a burrow is usually around half a meter deep to maximum of 3 meters deep. Compare this to the mole whose mole holes are minimally around a meter deep and can clear 6 meters per hour of loose soil. Their front paws have a claw-like built which are made for digging. Depending on the base, rats almost never dig under the foundation, but always go along it, this is because the rats have a limitation as to what material they can dig and not dig. They will usually dig soft soils under bushes and in corners to construct their rat burrows from.

Rat Holes in the Ground

Rats make their nests out of a bunch of material including plant materials, cotton and twigs, and manmade debris such as insulation, hair, paper, and cloth.

The typical nest may have various compartments including a specific area for storing food. One major fixture of a rat’s nest is what is known as a runway trail. This is a path leading directly in and out of the nest and is typically clear of debris such as dust and cobwebs.

Rats identify potential nesting spots using a few basic criteria including; easy access to food and water, humidity, warmth, and availability of building material. Common areas in the house that meet this criterion include under porches, in garages, in attics, between walls, in boxed-in plumbing, and in crawl spaces. Rats also prefer dark areas since they are nocturnal animals (meaning they are active at night).

Life in Rat Burrows

rat burrow structure
rat burrow structure (source:

The Norway rat (also known as a brown rat, gray rat or water rat) prefers to live underground in burrows or tunnels and is the species most likely to be causing trouble in your yard. These burrows can range from simple tunnels to complex networks of interconnected underground tunnels.

When food and water are abundant, rats like to corporate so it is common to have multiple families using the same network of burrows, runways, and food and water sources. When food and water are scarce, supremacy wars begin and the more dominant rats eat and drink first.

The weaker rats are relegated to areas of the burrow furthest from the food and water. These subordinate rats may also change their activity to be active during the day when the dominant rats are inactive. This may explain why you may be seeing rats in your yard during the day despite these rodents being nocturnal.

rat family in burrow
rat family in a burrow (source:

Why Rat Holes and Burrows Are Dangerous

rat burrow and grass damage

You may choose to ignore these burrows and holes especially if you haven’t physically seen the rats. Keep in mind that rats are mostly nocturnal and like to keep away from a human activity if they can.

For one, these exposed holes and burrows are letting other rodents into your house. Even if you are successful in eliminating the rats, pheromones left behind in the nest attract other rodents. These new invaders aren’t limited to just rats and may include birds, skunks, raccoons and squirrels among others. The exposed holes allow other rodents free reign into your home and property where the larger rodents only need to expand the existing holes to slide through.

These holes and burrows also expose wiring and plumbing. Rats gnaw incessantly to keep their teeth trim and sharp making wires and plumbing easy targets. You can expect electrical and plumbing issues in no time including leakages, shorts, and even fires.

Rat holes are unsightly and relatively easy to spot. These lower your home’s curb appeal and alert neighbours and passers-by that you have a rat problem. Rats are associated with filth (although rats can invade even clean and meticulous homes) which is not a reputation you want. Attempting to sell your home without taking care of these first is out of the question.

How to Inspect and Identify Rat Holes

Rats aren’t the only rodents that burrow so the existence of these tunnels and holes isn’t a sure sign that the culprit is rats. Rat holes are distinct from holes made by other garden pests and you can identify them fairly easily if you know what to look for.

The entrance to rat holes is typically 2-4 inches in diameter. The entrance is smooth and well-packed and usually with a fan-shaped pattern of loose, fresh dirt just outside the entrance. This distinct pattern is created by the rats kicking out dirt.

Start your inspection with where rats love to gnaw. Notorious areas include:

  • Near overgrown vegetation, shrubs and trees
  • Grassy banks
  • Paving edges
  • Deck
  • Rotting tiles, wood and bricks
  • Around drain covers
  • Compost Hips
  • Wood piles
  • Along with structural foundations

In short, rats like anywhere they can find sufficient cover and protection against the elements and predators. Start with the suspected area, such as the deck and search in a straight line.  Move on the next probable location for rat holes until you have inspected the entire yard.

Getting Rid of Rat Holes

The best strategy is humane removal even when you opt to kill the rats. Usually, a few proactive measures will force the rats out of your yard to find more attractive dwellings.

Begin by removing food and water sources that are attracting the pests in the first place. Seal your garbage cans and store your compost and lawn clippings in locked bins. Remove all other possible food sources and drain any stagnant water and fix leaking pipes and faucets.

Next, deprive the rats of ideal nesting locations. Trim trees and bushes close to the fence line or walls and store firewood on a raised platform and well away from the fence and walls. Keep your garden well maintained including removing weeds and other pest attractants.

Finally, fill the burrows with dirt and seal the burrow entrances with mesh wire or steel wool. Consider laying chicken wire around the holes. Make sure that the burrows are empty before sealing. The rats may take alternative routes to get out which means more burrows or may die of suffocation causing a rank odor that is difficult to locate. Rotting corpses also raise serious concerns about diseases and infections.

Removing a Rat Nest

rat nest with baby rats

Extermination is only one part of the solution to your rat problem. You still need to clean out the rat nest. It may seem trivial but the nest should be handled with extreme care and caution. This nest is home to many potentially infectious agents including fleas, the plague, and Hantavirus.

Open all doors and windows in the room for at least 30 minutes before undertaking any cleaning. Do not use a vacuum cleaner because it may disturb airborne viruses which are then inhaled.

Next, make a mixture of bleach and water (1 part bleach to 10 parts water) and wear vinyl or latex gloves and a face mask. Soak the rat’s nest with the cleaning solution for five minutes before carefully placing it in a plastic bag. Seal the bag tightly, place it in a second plastic bag, and seal it too before disposing of it safely. Mop the house thoroughly while paying special attention to rat runways.

Soak any rat droppings you find with the cleaning solution for at least five minutes before picking up and disposing of the same way you did with the rat’s nest.

Rat Holes in Yards

rat runaway trail
rat runaway trail

When you stumble upon a bunch of rat holes in your yard, you might very well confuse them for mole holes. Even though at a first glance they may look very indistinguishable from one another, taking a closer look and inspecting the yard hole may reveal something totally different than a mole. As previously mentioned before, a rat burrow has two entry-and exit-points called the runaway trail that directly leads to the compartment where the food is stored. If you see holes that look like or seem to function like a tunnel-like construction, you can be certain of it that you are dealing with rats. Seeing multiple holes in your garden can heavily damage the integrity of the soil as well as the crops. The Norway Rat usually constructs burrows close to food sources for easier access and as a possible escape route for when a predator is nearby giving the rat the adequate advantage to retreat because of its proximity. If you have bushes or other types of vegetation, it would be a good idea to check for other hidden rat’s burrows. If you do have heavy vegetation in your yard; a good way to manage these burrows after removal is to regularly trim your bushes and lawn.

Hire a Pest Control Technician to Get Rid of Rats in Your Yard

Rats can be difficult to get rid of and have a high return rate. Getting rid of rats permanently is a complex job that requires multiple steps and removal methods. Hire a pest control technician in Toronto to get rid of the rats since DIY has such a high failure rate. Apart from physically eliminating the rats, there are additional issues including pheromones that may attract other wildlife, nest debris, urine, and feces that carry numerous diseases causing pathogens and eliminating attractants and vulnerable areas where rodents can burrow.

To get the best result, you need to hire a professionally licensed pest control technician who would help in getting rid of rats. Contact The Exterminators at 647-496-2211 and we can help you deal with your rat infestation problem. If you want to buy rat control products please visit our online store.

Updated: September 16, 2020