Gambian rats are native to Africa. They were bred in captivity on Grassy Key, north of Marathon. Around five years ago, eight rats escaped and have established a reproducing population. Gambian rats primarily eat fruit and grains, but they have been known to eat insects, crabs and snails. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is preparing to eliminate this exotic species to prevent potential impact to native species and disease transmission.
Gambian rats are large rodents, weighing an average of 3 lbs., and measure from 20-35 inches from the head to the tip of the tail. A distinctive feature is the long tail (14-18 inches) that is virtually hairless, with the last third a creamy color. The Gambian rat is larger than the common black rat (also an introduced species), and native Florida species including the Key Largo wood rat, cotton rat, and silver rice rat.
WHERE ARE THEY FOUND?
Gambian rats are often seen around houses, particularly where pets are fed outside. Gambian rats are most active at night. They climb well but spend much time on the ground. To date, Gambian rats have been observed only on Grassy Key.
Gambian rats are larger than the more common black rat and black rat with color variation (also an introduced species) and native Florida species including the Key Largo wood rat, cotton rat and silver rice rat.
Possums are of similar size and may be mistaken for Gambian rats in low light. However, the white face and completely whitish tail distinguish the two.