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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Rice Rats: 5 Facts You Won’t Believe!

Marsh rice rat facts are interesting to learn about.

Rats are not always ugly. Often, they can turn out to be quite cute too. One such rat which is prevalent in North America is the rice rat or Oryzomys palustris natator. Rice rat or Oryzomys palustris is a North American specific rodent known for its small size. They generally live in the salt swamp areas and are considered endangered in a few areas like Florida. However, the marsh rice rat, one of the variants of the rice rat, is quite common and can be found in large populations near marsh areas. The silver rice rat is considered endangered or threatened. These marsh rice rat Oryzomys may look similar to the cotton rat but has some distinctions from the cotton rat. Their diet is both meat and plants.

The nocturnal rice rat Oryzomys palustris is a rodent with a long tail and small body. The wetland habitat makes them semi-aquatic. They have a short lifespan like most rats. They can also transmit a few diseases like the Hantavirus. However, the rice rat does not stay near humans. If you want to know more about these animals, we have collected all the interesting facts about the rice rat Oryzomys palustris, their behavior, and their lifestyle! For more similar content, check out muskrat and kangaroo rat facts.

Rice Rat Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a rice rat?

The rice rat Oryzomys palustris is a rodent.

What class of animal does a rice rat belong to?

The rice rat Oryzomys palustris belongs to the class mammal or Mammalia.

How many rice rats are there in the world?

Rice rats are not properly studied and so, it is uncertain how many rice rats remain in the world today, despite the silver rice rat being considered Endangered.

Where does a rice rat live?

The rice rat Oryzomys palustris mostly lives in a swampy area, that is, the salt marsh areas.

What is a rice rat's habitat?

The rice rat mostly loves to live in the wet meadows or salt marsh, that is, the wetland habitat. The preferable area of the rice rat is marshes which are covered with grass. Grass can help them hide from predators. Since rice rats are semi-aquatic rodents, they love to stay near water. They are also nocturnal creatures and thus, stay active during the night.

Who do rice rats live with?

Rice rats generally like to live on their own in the swamps. They are solitary rodents.

How long does a rice rat live?

Rice rats are known to have a lifespan of less than a year. Approximately, a rice rat lives for around seven months.

How do they reproduce?

The reproduction cycle of rice rats or rather, genus Oryzomys, normally takes place in the summer months. Rice rats generally breed in the months of March to October. The rice rats are rodents that tend to reach puberty at 50-60 days. The gestation period for the marsh rice rat lasts around 25 days.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the marsh rice rat rodent is Least Concern as per the IUCN. This is because the marsh rice rat is quite commonly found, especially near the Chesapeake Bay and most of the southern United States. However, the other variants of rice rats can be rare. The silver rice rat found in the Florida Keys is considered Endangered. In Illinois, marsh rats are considered Threatened. The Coues' rice rats are an understudied rice rat breed and are also kept under Least Concern status by the IUCN. The Jamaican rice rat became extinct back in the 1870s. The Galapagos rice rat found in the Galápagos Islands is currently under Vulnerable status as per IUCN. Zuniga's dark rice rat is found mostly in Peru and is Critically Endangered. The long-whiskered rice rat is found near Western Ecuador and Honduras and is under the Least Concern status. The cloud forest rice rat is also under Least Concern. The Martinique giant rice rat has become extinct, back in 1902 (approximately).

Rice Rats Fun Facts

What do rice rats look like?

A marsh rice rat has a long body with brown and gray fur, with a tinge of black hairs. The length of the tail of a marsh rice rat is generally longer than their head and even their body. Their ears are long and small in size. Their feet and belly come with a whitish or a light gray tone. They also have a bi-colored tail where the underside of their tail can have a white or grayish color tone too. The silver rice rat is a bit different because they have a larger body. They have a silver-gray color on their back which gives away their identity as silver rice rats.  The Coues' rice rats are larger than the rice rat Oryzomys palustris (marsh rat) but they are less gray. They come in varying shades of brown.

The different species of the rice rat population have different conservation statuses.

How cute are they?

The appearance of rice rats is quite cute, unlike the brown and black rats. They have beady eyes and a short snout which is generally pink in color. This adds to their appearance as a cute rodent.

How do they communicate?

While rice rats are not properly studied, they seem to rely mostly on hearing, taste, smell, and vision to communicate or perceive the world around them. Whenever rice rats are exposed to a new area, they tend to sniff the place as a form of exploration.

How big is a rice rat?

A Marsh rice rat (genus Oryzomys) has a total length of the body around 9-12 in out of which their tail is around 4-7 in. This is slightly smaller than the cotton rat, which reaches around 7.9-13 in. The male rodent is slightly larger than the females.

How fast can a rice rat run?

Due to the lack of study on rice rats, it is difficult to estimate the speed of a rice rat. However, rice rats are known to walk, swim, run, jump and even climb. While climbing vegetation, they often use their tail for support.

How much does a rice rat weigh?

The weight of a rice rat is around 0.09-0.19 lb or 40-85 g. This is quite light when it is compared to the weight of a cotton rat, which is 0.2-0.6 lb, that is, 100-250 g.

What are their male and female names of the species?

While rats are commonly referred to as rats, male rats are called bucks and female rats are called does.

What would you call a baby rice rat?

Baby rice rats are ironically called kittens or pups.

What do they eat?

The marsh rice rat is an omnivore. These rodents can eat a plant diet but they love to eat immature turtles, eggs, fish, crabs, snails, and insects too.

Are they friendly?

Rice rats tend to be quite aggressive. They mostly stay isolated and as a result, they can feel threatened by human beings. They can resort to biting when they are handled without the gloved hands of human beings.

Would they make a good pet?

It is uncertain whether rice rats are rodents that can make good pets but it seems like they may turn out to be violent. Mostly, marsh rice rats are nocturnal, solitary creatures but they can be really aggressive even within themselves. Males and females tend to fight a lot which can result in injuries and even death. Females tend to be really aggressive during the peripartum period (the period before, during, and after birth). So, this data points out that rice rats may not be the right fit if you have other rodent pets in your house due to their violent nature. It is not advised to pet a rice rat.

Did you know...

The marsh rice rat tends to defecate and also clean their fur away from their burrows. They do it in designated places, almost like our latrines.

The marsh rice rat Oryzomys are amazing swimmers and can swim above 30 ft deep and around 1,000-foot stretches of water. The undercoat of marsh rice rats repels water. This helps them hide under the water as well if a prey looms close.

Marsh rice rats are rodents who are also known to often take over the nests of blackbirds and then, use them as their own. Marsh rats like to build a soft ball-like nest using woven sedges and grasses. The nests are present in hidden areas just above the high tide mark.

The females of this rodent species can show aggressive behavior. Nevertheless, this rodent still falls prey to the likes of owls, hawks, watersnakes, foxes, and raccoons.

Types of rice rats

There are many different types of rice rats. The most common rice rat is the marsh rice rat. There are also the silver rice rats, Coues' rice rats, Galapagos rice rat, dark rice rat, long-whiskered rice rat, and cloud forest rice rat.

Why is the rice rat endangered?

While the marsh rice rat may be quite common, the silver rice rat is under threat of becoming extinct. This is mostly due to habitat loss. Rice rats tend to live in marshes and since habitat destruction and coal mining operations destroy these swampy areas, the population of rice rats is also being threatened. Wetland clearance due to commercial and industrial purposes has severely threatened their population. Silver rice rat in Florida seems to be severely threatened due to the changing water levels. Climate change can also be the reason why the range of rice rats in Texas is slowly getting reduced.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including dormouse, or elephant shrew.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our rice rat coloring pages.

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