Every species plays a crucial role in preserving harmony and balance in the complex web of ecosystems. Among the many creatures that coexist with us, rats are known for their adaptability and resilience. These species can thrive in human environments and are often seen as pests.
However, it’s important to acknowledge that rat predators are also crucial in controlling their populations. In this article, let’s examine some of these species and see how they hunt these rodents.
10 Rat predators
Several different types of natural predators can help keep rat populations in check. Some of the most common predators include cats, red-tailed hawks, rat snakes, weasels, bobcats, barn owls, American kestrels, cougars, crows, and red foxes.
Scientific Name: Felis catus
The most well-known animal known for hunting rats is the cat, a domestic species of small carnivorous mammal. They’re ideally equipped for grabbing and killing prey because they have a strong, flexible body, rapid reflexes, sharp teeth, and retractable claws.
Cats also have great night vision, a highly developed sense of smell, and superior hearing in comparison to humans, which allows them to notice sounds that are either too faint or too high in frequency for our ears to pick up, such as those generated by tiny animals like as rodents.
2. Red-tailed Hawk
Scientific Name: Buteo jamaicensis
In North America, you can encounter the Red-tailed Hawk, a predatory bird so named because of its recognizable red tail feathers. Even though their diet doesn’t just consist of rodents, these hawks are among the most frequent predators of rats.
They have a diverse diet that varies depending on their location and the availability of prey, and while they consume a wide range of animals, rodents are frequently taken as prey due to their abundance. Over 100 species of rodents have been recorded in the diet of Red-tailed Hawks, with a wide variation in size.
3. Rat snakes
Scientific Name: Pantherophis obsoletus
The Western rat snakes are non-venomous snakes that can hunt rats and are known as one of the main predators of these species in their environment. These animals are classified as constrictors, which means that they hunt by wrapping themselves around their prey and applying intense pressure until their prey’s heart and lungs give out, ultimately resulting in a fatal outcome.
Although its name may suggest otherwise, the western rat snake isn’t limited to a diet of rats. They catch and eat any small vertebrate they can find because they’re opportunistic feeders.
Scientific Name: Mustela nivalis
Rats and other tiny rodents are among the most frequent food items for weasels, which are small carnivorous animals well recognized for their hunting skills. Weasels are fierce and agile hunters that can kill rabbits that are five to ten times their own weight, despite varying in size.
This is why they’re important for controlling rodent populations in their ecosystems. They regulate the numbers of rats and other small rodents by preying on them, which helps maintain the balance of the ecosystem.
Scientific Name: Lynx rufus
One of the large cats that rats are most afraid of is the bobcat, which is native to North America. Bobcats are opportunistic hunters and can go for long periods of time without eating, but when there is an abundance of prey, they devour a lot of food.
They also adjust their diet to the availability of their prey. Cotton rats may also become their primary food source in the Far South when rabbits and hares aren’t readily available.
6. Barn owls
Scientific Name: Tyto alba
You may recognize barn owls as nocturnal birds of prey with exceptional hunting abilities. In agricultural areas, rats are a significant pest problem, and these predators are common in hunting them down. Barn owls mostly eat rodents and small mammals, which make up more than 90% of their prey.
These owl species hunt mostly at dusk or at night, flying slowly, quartering the ground, and lingering over areas where prey could be hidden. It can determine the position and distance of sounds thanks to its acute hearing and asymmetrically positioned ears on its head.
7. American Kestrels
Scientific Name: Falco sparverius
The American kestrel is a small falcon species that primarily feeds on small animals, from grasshoppers to mice and rats. It hunts by perching and waiting for prey to come close enough to attack. You can often see them perching on objects such as trees, power lines, or fence posts along roadsides or fields.
They also hover in the air by flapping their wings quickly and looking for prey on the ground. Because of their adaptability, they can catch prey like rats with the greatest amount of efficiency.
Scientific Name: Puma concolor
The Cougars, commonly called mountain lions or pumas, are another carnivore you could encounter feasting on rats. Cougars mainly eat larger mammals but sometimes hunt smaller prey like rodents. These predators usually follow their prey and then jump onto their back, delivering a strong bite to the neck to suffocate them.
They can break the neck of smaller prey by biting it strongly and using their momentum to bring the animal to the ground. They also drag their kill to a spot they prefer, cover it with a brush, and come back to feed on it for several days.
Scientific Name: Corvus brachyrhynchos
Although they aren’t often thought of as one of the most frequent predators of rats, crows do devour a variety of food sources. They’re among the opportunistic omnivores you may see in the wild.
These animals actively hunt and eat small creatures such as mice, young rabbits, frogs, and other small animals. Crows have different ways of finding food and are important for the environment, but they don’t eat rats as much as other predators such as cats, snakes, or birds of prey do.
10. Red foxes
Scientific Name: Vulpes vulpes
Foxes are predators that can adapt to different situations and eat a variety of foods. These animals eat more than 300 animal species, and they mainly feed on small mammals such as voles, mice, ground squirrels, and other rodents, including rats.
Red foxes hunt skillfully by using visual, auditory, and olfactory cues to find and catch their prey. They like to hunt in the early morning before sunrise and late evening, so they often find rat species.