Rodents mistaken for rats

Before you report a rat, know the difference between rats and other small mammals common to Alberta.

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  • Rodents mistaken for rats


If a rodent is spotted in the daylight crossing a road or highway, it is unlikely to be a rat and probably is a muskrat.

Norway and roof rats can be identified by a number of distinguishing characteristics and clues. However, most ‘rats’ reported in Alberta are in fact other rodents such as muskrats. Before reporting a rat, view the list below, then find out how to identify rats and their signs.

Rodents mistaken for rats

  • Photo of a Muskrat

    Muskrats are commonly seen travelling overland and sometimes far distances from water, especially in the fall and spring. Many ‘rats’ reported in Alberta are actually muskrats.

    • Colour: brown/black
    • Size: body is approximately 45 to 70 cm (18 to 27 in) long
    • Other features: large toenails on hind feet and long, scaled, blackish, flattened tail
  • Photo of a Deer (or white-footed) mouse
    Deer (or white-footed) mouse
    • Regulated nuisance in Alberta
    • Colour: variations of brown
    • Size: body is 8 to 10 cm (3 to 4 in) long
    • Other features: large, beady eyes and large ears
    • See also: Mice and Their Control
  • Photo of a House mouse
    House mouse
    • Regulated nuisance in Alberta
    • Colour: grayish-brown, with gray or buff belly
    • Size: body is 6.5 to 9 cm (2.5 to 3.5 in) long
    • Other features: slightly pointed nose, small feet, small, black protruding eyes, large ears
    • See also: Mice and Their Control
  • Photo of a Northern pocket gopher
    Northern pocket gopher
    • Regulated nuisance in Alberta
    • Colour: grey/brown
    • Size: body is 15 to 25 cm (6 to 8 in) long
    • Other features: distinctive cheek pouches, long incisor teeth, long feet, large claws, short tail
    • See also: Control of Pocket Gophers and Ground Squirrels
  • Photo of a Meadow vole (field mouse)
    Meadow vole (field mouse)
    • Regulated nuisance in Alberta
    • Colour: dark brown to reddish brown
    • Size: body approximately 9 to 14 cm (3.5 to 5.5 in) long
    • Other features: stocky with short legs and tail; ears partially hidden
    • See also: Mice and Their Control
  • Photo of a Richardson ground squirrel (gopher)
    Richardson ground squirrel (gopher)
  • Photo of a Squirrel
    • Colour: reddish, rusty brown
    • Size: body is approximately 20 cm long


  • Photo of a Ord’s kangaroo rat
    Ord’s kangaroo rat
    • Endangered species in Alberta
    • Colour: Brownish orange with greyish black on the midline
    • Size: Body approximately 10 to 12 cm (4 to 5 in); tail can be 13 to 16 cm (5 to 6 in) long

    Image credit: Ord's Kangaroo rat, Alberta by Andy Teucher is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

  • Photo of a Bushy tailed wood rat (pack rat)
    Bushy tailed wood rat (pack rat)
    • Regulated nuisance in Alberta
    • Colour: silver grey to dark grey to brown
    • Size: body is 20 to 25 cm (8 to 10 in), tail length is 10 to 21 cm (4 to 8 in)
    • Other features: bushy tail

Rodent comparison

See Rat and Mouse Comparison fact sheet.

For size comparison, see below, top to bottom: mouse, vole, juvenile roof rat, pocket gopher, Norway rat

Photo of small mammals are often mistaken for rats in Alberta

Report a rat

If you think you saw a rat, see how to identify and report a rat.