Rats, mice and other rodents do not typically hibernate during the winter months. Rats live in wilderness and domestic environments. Their winter habits remain consistent regardless of environment, but they do utilize different types of shelter depending on location. Cold weather requires insulation and shelter from the elements. A food source is also necessary for survival.
Houses and Sheds
Human dwellings and outbuildings provide shelter for rats and mice during cold periods. Crawl space areas beneath homes are common rat escapes. Rats also will utilize garages and sheds if an insulated space is available inside the structure. They don't like exposure and require a hidden area. Rats also will infest the interior of a home in some circumstances.
Vehicles for Shelter
Idle vehicles are often used by pack rats and other rodents. Engine compartments and ventilation systems are concealed and protected from the elements. The rats build nests from a combination of natural and synthetic materials. They will shred paper, seat cushions and fabric to build the nesting area. They use the ventilation system to travel through the vehicle and to enter the cab of the vehicle.
Nesting in Caves
Rats living outside of human-occupied areas use caves and natural shelters during the winter months. The rats collect food throughout the warm months and cache it in caves. Most rats are social, and groups will occupy a single dwelling. They urinate on food caches to mark territory.
Rats without access to human dwellings or caves will burrow into the ground. They will use a natural boulder or rock wall and dig beneath the structure if possible. Rats will also burrow in the open ground if necessary. Rat burrows have a single entry and exit hole. The depth depends on the temperature and insulating ability of the ground.
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Zach Lazzari is a Montana based freelance outdoor writer and photographer. You can follow his work at bustedoarlock.com.