Cotton rat populations ‘outrageously high’ in Kansas, biologist says

Cotton rat
Cotton rat File photo

Populations of cotton rats have become “outrageously high” in Kansas, according to one biologist.

The cotton rats feed on grass and weed seeds.

Cotton-rat populations fluctuate, and with timely rains and mild winters in recent years, their population has become “outrageously high,” according to Elmer Finck, a Fort Hays State University biology professor.

Recent rains have given them more grass and weed seed to munch on. Mild winters let them survive and breed longer.

He suspects that the type of rat showing up in Wichita backyards could be the cotton rat and not the Norway rat as originally suspected.

Cotton rats aren’t quite as large as Norway rats. Cotton rats have mottled blackish-brown fur, and their tails have noticeably much more fur than Norway rats.

Finck said he would like to see photos of the rats being caught to help identify the rat species.

“To me what you are describing sounds like an outbreak of cotton rats,” he said of residents reporting large numbers of rats being caught in back yards near Central and Woodlawn, Central and Rock, Douglas and Rock, 143rd and Kellogg, 13th and Ridge and Tyler and Kellogg.

He also noted: “You could have the same thing happen with Norway rats, but they aren’t as much of a grass eater.”

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