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Types of Rats and Rodents in Alaska

Alaska, known for its diverse wildlife, is home to various species of rats and rodents. These animals play important roles in the ecosystem, but their presence can also pose challenges for humans. In this article, we will explore the different types of rats and rodents found in Alaska, their characteristics, and the importance of recognizing and managing their presence.

Rats in Alaska

Rats are one of the most common types of rodents found in Alaska. They are known for their ability to adapt to various environments and reproduce quickly.

Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus)

The Brown Rat, also known as the Norway Rat, is a large and robust species of rat. It has a brown or grayish-brown fur, with a lighter-colored underside. Brown Rats are excellent climbers and burrowers, allowing them to inhabit a wide range of habitats including sewers, basements, and outdoor areas. They are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of food sources including grains, fruits, and meats. Brown Rats are known to cause damage to buildings and crops, and can also transmit diseases to humans and other animals.

Black Rat (Rattus rattus)

The Black Rat, also known as the Roof Rat, is a smaller species of rat with a slender body and large ears. It has black or dark brown fur, and a lighter-colored belly. Black Rats are agile climbers and are often found in high places such as rooftops, attics, and trees. They are omnivorous and have a preference for fruits, nuts, and grains. Black Rats are known to be carriers of diseases and can also cause damage to structures through their gnawing habits.

Mice in Alaska

In addition to rats, Alaska is also home to several species of mice. Mice are smaller in size compared to rats, but they can still be a nuisance when they enter human habitats.

House Mouse (Mus musculus)

The House Mouse is the most common species of mouse found in Alaska. It has a small and slender body, with large ears and a long tail. House Mice are opportunistic feeders and can survive on a wide range of food sources including grains, seeds, and even insects. They have a tendency to create nests in warm and hidden areas of buildings, such as attics and wall voids. House Mice are known to cause damage to stored food, wires, and insulation, and can also spread diseases through their droppings.

Voles in Alaska

Voles, often referred to as field mice, are small burrowing rodents that are commonly found in Alaska. They are herbivorous and play an important role in the ecosystem by distributing seeds and aerating the soil.

Eastern Meadow Vole (Field Mouse) (Microtus pennsylvanicus)

The Eastern Meadow Vole, also known as the Field Mouse, is a common species of vole found in Alaska. It has a compact body with a short tail and small ears. Meadow Voles are herbivores, primarily feeding on grasses, roots, and other plant materials. They create elaborate burrow systems in grassy areas and can cause damage to lawns and gardens. While meadow voles do not typically enter human dwellings, their presence in yards and fields can be a concern for agriculture and horticulture.

Squirrels in Alaska

Alaska is also home to various species of squirrels, which belong to the rodent family. Squirrels are known for their arboreal lifestyles and their ability to store food for future use.

Ground Squirrels

Ground Squirrels are a group of squirrel species that inhabit burrows in the ground. They are often found in open areas such as meadows, parks, and suburban yards. Ground Squirrels are herbivores, consuming a wide range of plant material including seeds, nuts, and fruits. They play an important role in seed dispersal and can also serve as prey for various predators.

Muskrats in Alaska

Muskrats are semi-aquatic rodents that are native to Alaska. They are known for their dense fur and their ability to swim and construct lodges in wetland areas.

Common Muskrat

The Common Muskrat is the most widespread species of muskrat found in Alaska. It has a stocky body, with short legs and a long, scaly tail. Muskrats are herbivorous, consuming aquatic plants, roots, and shoots. They are considered an important part of wetland ecosystems, as they create channels and ponds through their burrowing activities. However, muskrats can also cause damage to agricultural crops and irrigation systems if their population becomes too high.

Lemmings in Alaska

Lemmings are small rodents that are known for their cyclic population fluctuations and their ability to survive in the harsh Arctic environments of Alaska.


Lemmings are small, short-tailed rodents that belong to the subfamily Arvicolinae. They have a compact body and are adapted to cold climates. Lemmings primarily feed on grasses and other plant materials, and they create extensive tunnel systems in the ground. These rodents are known for their unique population dynamics, where their numbers can greatly fluctuate from year to year. Their population cycles play a crucial role in the food web of Arctic regions, as they are an important prey item for predators such as Arctic foxes and snowy owls.

American Beavers in Alaska

American Beavers are the largest rodents found in Alaska and are well-known for their ability to construct dams and lodges in freshwater environments.

American Beaver

The American Beaver is a semi-aquatic rodent with a large body and a flat, scaly tail. Beavers are herbivores, feeding on the bark, leaves, and twigs of trees and shrubs. They are famous for their dam-building activities, which create wetland habitats and help regulate water flow. Beavers play a vital role in increasing biodiversity and supporting other wildlife in their habitats. However, their activities can also cause conflicts with humans, especially when their dams flood roads, fields, or forests.

North American Porcupines in Alaska

North American Porcupines are large, slow-moving rodents known for their unique defense mechanism of quills.

North American Porcupine

The North American Porcupine is a large and stout rodent with a coat of sharp, barbed quills. These quills serve as a defense against predators. Porcupines are herbivores and have a specialized diet, primarily feeding on the bark, twigs, and needles of trees. They are excellent climbers and are often found in trees, where they create nests known as dreys. Porcupines can cause damage to trees and wooden structures through their gnawing behavior. It is important to avoid close contact with porcupines, as their quills can cause painful injuries if touched.

Other Rodents in Alaska

In addition to the aforementioned species, Alaska is also home to other types of rodents.

Groundhogs (Woodchucks)

Groundhogs, also known as Woodchucks, are large ground-dwelling rodents found in certain parts of Alaska. They are known for their burrowing habits and hibernation abilities. Groundhogs are herbivores, consuming a variety of plants including grasses, leaves, and crops. They can sometimes cause damage to gardens and agricultural fields.


Moles are small burrowing mammals that have adapted to living underground. They have a cylindrical body, short legs, and powerful front limbs for digging. Moles are insectivores, feeding on earthworms, insects, and other invertebrates found in the soil. While moles do not pose direct threats to humans, their tunneling activities can create unsightly mounds of soil and potentially damage plants and lawns.


Shrews are small, insectivorous mammals that are commonly found in Alaska. Despite their size, shrews are highly active and voracious predators, feeding on various invertebrates. They have a high metabolic rate and need to consume large amounts of food to survive. While shrews do not cause significant damage to human property, their presence can be beneficial in controlling insect populations.


Alaska is home to a diverse array of rats and rodents, each with its own unique characteristics and role in the ecosystem. While these animals can sometimes be considered pests due to their ability to cause damage and transmit diseases, it is important to recognize their ecological importance and strive for effective management strategies that balance human needs with conservation efforts. By understanding the different types of rats and rodents found in Alaska, we can better appreciate the complexity and diversity of the wildlife that inhabits this remarkable state.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are rats and rodents dangerous in Alaska?

A: Rats and rodents can pose potential dangers in Alaska. They can cause damage to structures, crops, and stored food, and some species can transmit diseases to humans and other animals. It is important to take appropriate measures to manage their presence and prevent infestations.

Q: How can I prevent rodents from entering my property?

A: There are several steps you can take to help prevent rodents from entering your property. Keep your home and surrounding areas clean and free from food sources that may attract rodents. Seal any entry points such as cracks or gaps in walls and foundations. Store food in rodent-proof containers, and regularly inspect and maintain your property for signs of rodent activity.

Q: What should I do if I suspect a rodent infestation?

A: If you suspect a rodent infestation in your home or property, it is recommended to contact a professional pest control service. They can assess the situation, implement effective control measures, and provide guidance on preventing future infestations.

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