Statistics have shown that more rat species prefer to live in the urban areas than rural areas, and the reason being that they can have access to easy food and shelter in the urban areas that the sparsely populated rural areas. The Norway rat species, and the roof rats are the most prominent rats inhabiting the urban areas, and they are also the most common rat species in North America, where rat infestations are prominent. These animals are often being preyed upon by predators and prefer to live in urban environments being that they have sufficient cover. Rats have incisors and molars. Incisors are the front most teeth in mammals. In rats, these are the four, long, sharp front teeth, two on top and two on the bottom. Rat incisors are highly specialized for gnawing. They are open-rooted, which means they grow throughout life, which means they have to keep chewing to keep them from growing rapidly.
Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) is a severe, sometimes fatal, respiratory disease in humans caused by infection with hantaviruses.
Anyone who comes into contact with rodents that carry hantaviruses is at risk of HPS. Rodent infestation in and around the home remains the primary risk for hantavirus exposure. Even healthy individuals are at risk for HPS infection if exposed to the virus.
When their homes are encroached upon by developments of houses, they can fairly easily adapt to new habitats. In fact, it's now understood that raccoons, for the past several decades, have been in the process of becoming urbanized animals, like pigeons or rats. Raccoon population densities are typically much higher, up to ten times higher, in cities than in the native forests. In cities, they will often live within strips of trees and vegetation if possible, but will commonly find other developed areas in which to settle as well. If they cannot be near water, they will have no qualms about using an animal trough, a swimming pool or a bird bath to douse their food. In this micro-environment, raccoons have a much diminished rage of foraging. In the woodlands, females usually have a range of eight to eighty acres while males roam up to two hundred acres of territory. Living in an urban area, raccoons don't tend to roam that far because they don't have to. Wherever people live there is food to be found. Raccoons have their personal fast food sources without the need to roam. They can also find shelter quite easily in attics, sheds, basements, crawl spaces as well as abandoned cars.
Baylisascaris procyonis, predominantly found in raccoons, is a ubiquitous roundworm found throughout North America. Although raccoons are typically asymptomatic when infected with the parasite, the larval form of Baylisascaris procyonis can result in fatal human disease or severe neurologic outcomes if not treated rapidly. In the United States, Baylisascaris procyonis is more commonly enzootic in raccoons in the midwestern and northeastern regions and along the West Coast (1). However, since 2002, infections have been documented in other states (Florida and Georgia) and regions (2). Baylisascariasis is not a nationally notifiable disease in the United States, and little is known about how commonly it occurs or the range of clinical disease in humans. Case reports of seven human baylisascariasis cases in the United States diagnosed by Baylisascaris procyonis immunoblot testing at CDC are described, including review of clinical history and laboratory data. Although all seven patients survived, approximately half were left with severe neurologic deficits. Prevention through close monitoring of children at play, frequent handwashing, and clearing of raccoon latrines (communal sites where raccoons defecate) are critical interventions in curbing Baylisascaris infections. Early treatment of suspected cases is critical to prevent permanent sequelae.
Due to the lack of natural predators, hunting and an abundance of food and shelter, opossums have adapted to living among humans and they now occupy most human-occupied habitats. Opossums will den nearly anywhere that is dry, sheltered and safe. This includes burrows dug by other mammals, rock crevices, hollow stumps, wood piles and spaces under buildings. They fill their dens with dried leaves, grass and other insulating materials.
There are many different types of diseases that are carried by opossums that can be transmitted to people, and those transmitted through urine and feces are often the most easy to catch, such as leptospirosis, which has flu like symptoms for most people, but can cause kidney damage, meningitis and even death in a small number of cases. Salmonella is a condition that is largely believed to be related to food poisoning, but can also be transmitted by opossums, and while it causes diarrhea for most people, the elderly and young children may find themselves at risk of more severe symptoms, with reactive arthritis one possible side effect. Opossums are also known as flea reservoirs, meaning that fleas that have been feeding on opossums can then infest pets that go outside as well.
Squirrels, like any successful urban wildlife species, are incredibly adaptive. As human development has expanded, squirrels have altered their behavior to thrive in new habitats. Squirrels use telephone and power lines as well as roof tops to travel above ground. While squirrels would traditionally build nests in the forks of trees or cavities they now often make their home inside attics. Squirrels are able to gain entry into the attic though any hole larger than two inches. Once inside, their nesting habits and fondness for gnawing down their incisors can cause thousands of dollars in building damage. Unlike, rodents squirrels can control their bowl movements and make latrines close to where they are nesting.
The first sign of a squirrel in the attic is usually the sound of scampering during the day, as they come and go on foraging trips. Juvenile squirrels, and sometimes adults, may fall into wall cavities and be unable to climb out, making persistent scratching noises as they try to escape (and eventually dying if they can’t). Once the squirrels are in your home, they can do widespread damage. The squirrels will find bedding material by shredding your insulation and wood frame. They will also chew through electrical wiring, which can lead to a fire. They can also chew through PVC, which can lead to flooding or water damage.
The armadillos in Florida are Nine Banded Armadillos. They are not native to Florida, but now they thrive in that state. They are similar in appearance to anteaters, and their most distinctive trait is their armor. Armadillos prefer forested or semi-open habitats with loose textured soil that allows them to dig easily. They eat many insects, other invertebrates, and plants. They are most active at night, and have very poor eyesight. Armadillos prolific rooting and burrowing can damage lawns and flower-beds.
Nine-banded armadillos are naturally infected with Mycobacterium leprae and have been implicated in zoonotic transmission of leprosy. Some armadillos, placental mammals with leathery armor, are naturally infected with leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Armadillos are one of the only known animals to carry leprosy, an age-old disease that causes skin and nerve damage. Due to the slow-growing nature of the bacteria and the long time it takes to develop signs of the disease, it is often very difficult to find the source of infection.
Florida has 13 recognized native species, though at least 20 species have been found in the state. Some are common across the state, while some live in only a small area or migrate here for part of the year. Bats are the only mammals that can fly, although other species can glide from trees. Like many wild animals, bats are coming closer and closer into the urban areas to live. Some species prefer to sleep alone or in small groups, while others like to be a part of a large colony. While some colonies live in caves, those are not common throughout Florida so they often find shelter in man-made structures like buildings and bridges. Solo or small groups roost in tree cavities, undersides of branches and palm fronds, in Spanish moss, on utility poles and in sheds or houses.
Most Florida bats love man-made bat houses. There are many plans to download online, and instructional videos on how to build them and set them up. Pre-made bat houses are also available, but be sure to look for ones specifically intended for bats in your area.
Though bats are beneficial to have around, they also pose a health danger to humans especially when they are living in close proximity to humans. Rabies is normally the first concerns that comes to mind, but many people don't realize how dangerous bat feces are to their health. Bat droppings are a breeding ground for a fungal disease called histoplasmosis. The fungus is common in the eastern and central United States, and people are prone to getting infected by breathing the fungal spores.