5 Common Rodents in Missouri and How to Control Them

vole image over aerial view of missouri

Across Missouri, rats, mice, woodchucks, and other rodents sneak into homes and yards, triggering a cascade of damage and health risks. This being the Show-Me State, we’re going to show you the most common Missouri rodent pests and how to control them effectively.

The biggest offenders? Norway rats and house mice are known to sneak into homes uninvited in St. Louis, Kansas City, and everywhere in between. Out in the yard, voles, nutria, and woodchucks may munch their way through your garden. 

How big of a problem are rats in Missouri? Kansas City and St. Louis landed in the top 50 of Orkin’s Rattiest Cities list.

1. Rats (Rattus)

rat in a house
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Rats are notorious for their stealthy invasions in big cities like Kansas City and St. Louis, causing all sorts of havoc. Rats gnaw away at wires and buildings, spread diseases, and contaminate your pantry. 

Rats are quick to multiply and have a knack for adapting to new surroundings, making these pests a constant problem in urban neighborhoods and even in Missouri’s quieter suburbs. 

How to Identify Missouri Rats

three norway rats on wood
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Let’s start with the basics — how to tell which type of rat you are battling:

Norway Rat (Rattus norvegicus): These brawny rodents burrow into your property. Also known as brown rats, sewer rats, or wharf rats, Norway rats are among the largest of their kin and tend to hang around the ground or lower floors of buildings.

Norway rats are not fussy about where they crash, either — basements, crawl spaces, garages — as long as there’s food, water, and shelter, they’re game. 

For more on Norway rats, see our guide to How to Identify Norway Rats and How to Get Rid of Them.

Roof Rat: Roof rats, also called black rats, ship rats, or tree rats, are a bit lighter on their feet and favor the higher spots. Roof rats are all about lofts, trees, and upper levels of structures, such as your warm attic.

Characteristics of Norway and Roof Rats:

  • Size: Norway rats usually stretch 16 inches from snout to tail tip. Roof rats are more in the 13- to 18-inch range.
  • Appearance: Norway rats boast rough coats splattered with browns and grays; roof rats are smoother operators, with their dark fur helping them keep a low profile.
  • Region: Norway rats and roof rats can be found all over Missouri, scoping out city and country spread alike. Norway rats are slightly more common due to Missouri’s ideal climate and ample open spaces, where they can access food and water. 
  • Behavior: Whether it’s a Norway rat’s burrow or a roof rat’s aerial hideout, both exhibit keen social smarts, live in crews, and are night prowlers.

Telltale Signs of Rats

Look for any signs of rodent activity so you can nip a rat problem in the bud. Are there any unexplained big pellet-like droppings around? Maybe a few fresh bite marks on wooden furniture, wires, or packaging? Don’t ignore them. It’s time to take action.

Rat Prevention Tips

Keep your home and yard tidy and tight. That’s your best bet for dodging a rat run-in. Here’s a lowdown on prevention:

  • Seal Entry Points: Look around your home for any gaps or holes. Rats need just about three-quarters of an inch to gain entry. Use caulk, steel wool, or a combo of the two to close up the entrances.
  • Remove Food Sources: Rats are after your crumbs, your trash, basically anything edible you have. So don’t leave rats a snack. Keep your food in airtight containers, think thick plastic or glass containers — stored away securely. 
  • Keep Your Home and Yard Clean: This makes your house and surroundings less inviting to rats.

Rat Trapping Tips

peanut butter on a mouse trap bait
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  • Best Bait: Peanut butter? Of course. A bit of fruit for the roof rat and maybe a dab of meat to draw out the Norway rat.
  • Choose the Right Trap: The old wooden snap trap still nails it. Pick a big rat trap, not a small one. Lure rats with a tightly secured piece of hot dog and wait. Electric traps also work, knocking out rats with a quick electric shock. If you’re not fond of the gore, a catch-and-release trap might work for small infestations.
  • Bait Then Set: Don’t rush to set the trap right away. Let the rats sniff around the bait a few times before the trap is sprung. 
  • Safety First: Be extra cautious when handling these traps — use gloves and place traps out of reach from kids and pets.
  • Placement: Scout the spots where there’s a flurry of rat activity. Look in the shadows, around walls, or behind objects –those are their sweet spots. You’re also aiming for a 10- to 20-foot gap between traps.
  • Avoid Using Poison Baits: Poison baits come with strings attached. There are rules to follow if you’re using poison bait, and it’s better not to risk harming non-target creatures. Plus, poison can cause rodents to die in hard-to-reach places — leaving you with an unwelcome mess and odor to deal with. (See How To Get Rid of That Dead Animal Smell.)

Think you might have a rat visitor somewhere around your house? Here are our top picks for the Best Rat Traps.

See Related:
How to Catch a Rat Like a Pro
How to Get Rid of Rats in Your Home
How to Prevent and Get Rid of Rats in Your Kitchen

Note: Rat control isn’t simple. If you’re dealing with a severe infestation, it’s always best to call in professional pest control services.

2. Mice (Mus musculus)

brown mouse on a wooden surface
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Mice are a close runner-up on Missouri’s list of troublesome rodents. Smaller than their rat relatives, mice somehow manage to cause just as much trouble. Mice sneak into homes seeking warmth and food, often nesting where you’re least likely to spot them, such as:

  • Behind appliances
  • Between walls
  • Attics 
  • Basements

Types of Mice Found in Missouri

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To solve your mouse problem, you need to know what kind of mouse you’re dealing with. These are the most common types of mice found in Missouri:

House Mice (Mus musculus): From bustling St. Louis to the peace of the rolling Ozarks, the house mouse is the frequent flyer in your homes. House mice are tiny, sleek, and light on their feet, often sneaking past you. Much like rats, house mice are masters of adaptation, flourishing in both rural and urban environments. 

You can identify house mice by their dusty gray fur, big ears, and the classic thin, long tail.

Deer Mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus): Deer mice prefer rural Missouri regions, being the outdoorsy type. Deer mice have a white underbelly with a gray to reddish-brown coat on top and a distinguishable dark tail on top and white below.

Note: Deer mice are infamous carriers of the Hantavirus, which can be lethal to people.

Characteristics of House and Deer Mice

  • Size: Mice are on the dainty side, with house mice measuring about 7 inches from nose to tail, while deer mice can be a tad longer.
  • Aspect: House mice sport a uniform dusty gray suit; deer mice wear a two-tone outfit with a brown back and a whitish belly.
  • Habitat: House mice thrive wherever there’s food and warmth. Deer mice prefer to set up home in logs or piles of debris.
  • Behavior: Both types of mice are known to be active after sundown, but deer mice are also sporadically active in the daytime.

Telltale Signs of Mice

droppings of mouse on the floor
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Mice often leave behind telltale signs that will tip you off to their presence, including:

  • Small, dark droppings
  • Urine stains or pillars
  • Unusual ammonia-like odors
  • Gnaw or hew marks on food packages
  • Grease marks along walls and baseboards

See Related:
Where Do Mice Hide in Your Home?

Mice Prevention Tips

Here are some ways to prevent house mice from invading your home or yard:

  • Keep It Clean: Maintaining a clean, clutter-free home can keep mice at bay. Store food; don’t leave it out in the open. 
  • Seal Up Cracks and Holes: Mice need only about a quarter of an inch to sneak in your house. Use steel wool and caulk to seal up any cracks or holes to keep mice outside.
  • Trim Landscaping: Overgrown plants or piles of wood and debris can provide places for mice to hide. Keep landscaping trim and neat to limit these hiding spots.

See Related:
How to Keep Mice Away from Your Home
How to Keep Mice out of Your Car

Mice Trapping Tips

  • Choose the Right Trap: Mouse traps tend to be smaller than rat traps, but they are just as efficient. You can also choose classic snap, electric traps, or catch-and-release kinds.
  • The Best Bait: Peanut butter, chocolate, oatmeal, and nesting materials like cotton balls, dental floss, yarn, and twine. Use these as bait rather than traditional cheese.
  • Place Mouse Traps Wisely: Set up traps every two to three feet along walls in high-traffic areas. Are those areas behind appliances or inside cabinets? Put mouse traps there, too.
  • Check Traps Frequently: Checking mouse traps at least once daily so you can promptly dispose of captured mice and reset the trap.

See Related:
How to Catch a Mouse Like a Pro
How to Get Rid of Mice in Your Home
How to Get Rid of Mice in Your Walls
How to Prevent and Get Rid of Mice in Your Crawl Space

Note: When disposing of any dead rodents and used traps, put them in a sealed plastic bag before washing hands thoroughly using an antibacterial soap. This ensures any potential virus is not spread in your home.

  • As with most things, when it’s beyond one’s ability to handle an infestation, call in the pros for assistance.

See Related:
How Much Does a Mouse Exterminator Cost?

Special Mention: Missouri’s Special Mice – The Peromyscus Species

Take a peek into the wilder side of Missouri, and you might find various species of the Peromyscus mice darting about. They blend in with their environment quite impressively and could be hard to spot. While all species are similar in appearance, they generally differ in habitat.

Three types steal the limelight:

  • The white-footed mouse: This cuddly, brown-furred native with a white underbelly loves spending time outdoors. It calls the woods and semi-woods of Missouri home, often found in logs or tree nests. Its unique feature is its soft white feet – hence its name.
  • The cotton mouse: It’s larger than the white-footed mouse and boasts a darker fur coat with shades ranging from grayish-brown to nearly black. This one opts for moist timber locations and is primarily found chilling around the Mississippi lowlands of Bootheel.
  • The Texas mouse: It’s marginally bigger, with flanks paler than those of their lookalike, and they sport an impressive two-toned tail boasting a fur tuft at its tip. You’ll mostly find them rolling around the southwestern regions of Ozark Highlands within the White and Elk River drainages.

3. Voles (Microtus)

Photo Credit: Evan James Shymko / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

Voles are the silent garden invaders, tiny but with big appetites for your greenery. They tunnel through your yard without a care, leaving a path of destruction behind. Moreover, voles have a notorious reputation for eating grassroots, bulbs, and tree bark, which can fatally damage your landscape.

Voles Identification in Missouri

In Missouri, you’re likely to encounter three main types of voles:

  • Prairie Vole (Microtus ochrogaster): You can find these voles practically everywhere in the state, thriving especially well in grassy areas. Compared to their hind foot, they don’t have long tails; it’s slightly less than double. 
  • Meadow Vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus): The meadow vole is found only in the northern counties of Missouri. They love moist, low areas with thick grasses, as well as drier grasslands near streams, lakes, or swamps.
  • Woodland Vole (Microtus pinetorum): You can bump into these guys anywhere in the state just as you would their prairie cousins. However, they spend most of their time underground in forested areas or fields located close to timber.

General Characteristics of Voles

  • Size: Voles are small, usually only about 5 to 8 inches long, including the tail.
  • Aspect: They sport dense brown or gray fur and look a bit like a plush toy. They have relatively short tails, petite ears, and small eyes.
  • Habitat: They prefer open areas, creating a network of runways and burrows in yards for easy access to their food source – plants.
  • Region: All across the state.
  • Behavior: Active throughout the year, voles usually do most of their work under your noses during both day and night.

Telltale Signs of Voles

It’s the trails voles leave behind that give them away. You’ll find small, cleared pathways running between burrows in yards or gardens. Other signs may include the presence of numerous holes in your yard, each about one to two inches wide. Moreover, keep an eye out for damaged plants and spongy soil above vole tunnels.

Voles Prevention Tips

  • Landscaping: They love cover, so you’re removing their table and chairs by keeping your grass short and removing weeds.
  • Wrap Trees: Trees, especially the young ones, are like candy to voles – wrapping the lower trunks with hardware cloth cylinders can keep them from girdling, which is like a death sentence to a tree. Use a one-quarter inch or smaller wire mesh to keep them out, and bury it six inches deep to prevent burrowing underneath.
  • Cultivate the Soil: Disrupting their runways by routinely plowing or tilling the ground makes your yard less vole-friendly.
  • Use Fungicide Dust: Protect flower bulbs by applying fungicide dust, making them less appealing to voles.
  • Fencing Is Your Friend: Got raised beds? Installing a mesh fence around them is like putting up a “Keep Out” sign for voles. Plus, a fine mesh under your mulch will also help keep them at bay.

Voles Trapping Tips

animal live catch trap in a garden
Photo Credit: NAKphotos / Canva Pro / License
  • Use Mouse Traps: A simple mouse snap trap can catch a vole. Other good options include scissor traps and live traps.
  • Best Bait: They’re pretty keen on peanut butter, just like their rodent cousins, but a mix of oatmeal or apple slices can do the trick, too.
  • Placement: Set the traps near the entrances to their tunnels or along their runways.
  • Bait Station: A bait station with rodenticide can be an effective method for managing larger vole populations. Remember, read the manufacturer’s guidelines and follow them meticulously to reduce risks to pets and non-target wildlife. 
  • Check Often: You need to check those traps often, ideally once daily, to remove caught voles and reset them as necessary.

If those pesky voles have been bugging you and you’re ready to tackle the problem yourself, here are some scissor traps available on Amazon that could help:

4. Woodchuck (Marmota monax)

Photo Credit: Pexels

These cute critters, known to Missourians simply as groundhogs or whistle-pigs, are famous for their weather-predicting abilities on Groundhog Day. But beyond the February festivities, they can turn a manicured yard into a minefield of burrows and dig up a real ecological mess. 

They’re burrowing machines capable of moving massive amounts of dirt and causing significant property damage.

Woodchuck Identification in Missouri

Groundhogs are actually a type of large ground squirrel. With their chunky bodies, short, powerful legs, and bushy tails, they can grow up to about two feet in length and weigh around 13 pounds. With their brown to grayish-brown fur, you’ll have no trouble spotting these fellows waddling around your property.

General Characteristics of House and Deer Mice

  • Size: They are pretty hefty, edging into the two-foot length zone, and they tip the scales at around 6 to 12 pounds.
  • Aspect: Sporting a coat of grizzled brown fur, these native Missouri rodents have a rather distinguished look, with short ears and a frothy white undercoat that makes them stand out against the dirt.
  • Habitat: They love open fields, woodland edges, and your garden. They burrow in well-drained soil and occasionally near wooded areas.
  • Region: All across Missouri. 
  • Behavior: These are smart, solitary critters, except when breeding or raising young. They spend many daylight hours eating and are avid diggers, resulting in an extensive network of burrows, tunnels, and chambers.

Telltale Signs of Woodchuck

Look out for freshly dug dirt and large burrow openings, which are usually about 10 inches in diameter. You might notice plants chewed right down to the ground, too. And don’t forget, woodchucks can climb, so even your raised beds might not be safe from their gnawing appetite. 

Woodchuck Prevention Tips

  • Exclusion: Fencing can work wonders. A sturdy wire fence that’s at least 3 feet high and buried a foot underground will keep them from tunneling under. Bending the top of the fence outwards or adding an electric wire discourages climbing. 
  • Remove attractants: Keep your space neat and reduce brush, woodpiles, and rocks where they might take shelter. 
  • Plant Dislikes: Woodchucks aren’t fans of herbs like lavender and mint or the spicy kick of hot peppers, so consider using these plants as a natural deterrent. 
  • Repellents: There are various repellents available, but their effectiveness can be hit or miss. However, they might be worth a try if you’re looking for a humane way to keep woodchucks away.

Woodchuck Trapping Tips

  • Best Trap: Live traps are usually the best option. These guys are big, so you need a bigger trap.
  • Best Bait: Veggies do the trick. Use fresh fruit or vegetables such as sweet corn, cantaloupe, or freshly leaf vegetation.
  • Placement: Place the trap near the burrow entrance or along a path the woodchuck frequently uses.

*Pest Control Consideration:

In Missouri, groundhogs are classified as game animals and can be hunted with a permit during the hunting season. But what if these critters are causing trouble out of season? Here comes the good news: according to the Wildlife Code of Missouri, a provision allows homeowners to trap damage-causing woodchucks even out-of-season without a permit. However, make sure to thoroughly check local laws and regulations before taking any action.

5. Nutria (Myocastor coypus)

a photo of a nutria on 
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Nutria are a foreign introduction to Missouri’s landscape. These South American natives were initially brought to the U.S. for their fur. However, they have slid into a pest status over time, causing hefty damage to Missouri’s wetland habitats and even residential properties.

The nutria’s feeding and burrowing habits can wreak havoc on the vegetation, cause soil erosion, and affect the structural integrity of buildings. They are particularly notorious for their burrows on creek banks, which can lead to flooding and crumbling roadways.

And it doesn’t stop here – these rodents can also pose health risks, carrying diseases such as tularemia, tuberculosis, and other potentially harmful parasites. 

Nutria Identification in Missouri

Nicknamed “river rats”, nutria is actually a species of large, semi-aquatic rodents. They’re hefty little buggers, with males reaching up to three feet long and tipping the scales at around twenty pounds. They’ve got waterproof brown fur and webbed hind feet for swimming. 

Their distinguishing feature? A long round tail that is somewhat rat-like. Plus, they’re also known for their sharp orange teeth.

General Characteristics of Nutria 

  • Size: The chubbier end of the rodent spectrum – adult males can reach lengths up to three feet from nose to tail base. 
  • Aspect: They have sporting waterproof brown fur and webbed hind feet. Nutria also have thin, round tails, much like a rat’s, and large incisor teeth that are bright orange.
  • Habitat: Wetland habitats, including swamps, marshes, ponds, and streams; nests out of plant materials in burrows along water bodies.
  • Region: They are particularly present in the southeastern corner of Missouri.
  • Behavior: Social animals that live in family groups or colonies.

Telltale Signs of Nutria

Nutria leave behind notable signs, such as near water sources, chewed plants, or grasses – often in circular patches known as ‘eat-outs.’ And let’s not forget their peculiar droppings, which are dark green or black and closely resemble large rat droppings.

Nutria Prevention Tips

  • Land Management: Ensuring your land is well-drained and free of dense, weedy vegetation makes it less appealing for nutria.
  • Physical Barrier: Low fences with a mesh apron buried underground can effectively deter nutria from entering gardens or backyards.
  • Protective Shields: Consider using shields made from sheet metal around wooden structures to stop these critters from gnawing on them.

Nutria Trapping Tips

  • Best Trap: Live traps, such as cage-type or foothold traps equipped with smooth or rubber jaws, can snag these critters without causing significant harm.
  • Trap Placement: Set up shop near active nutria burrows, feeding sites, or pathways along the water’s edge.
  • Regular Checks: Don’t forget to maintain and check those traps regularly; this is crucial for humane trapping.


Before trapping nutria, check local laws with the local wildlife department. Or hire a professional pest service to manage the issue safely and legally.

Other Rodents in Missouri 

Beyond the usual suspects, Missouri’s landscape houses diverse rodent species that coexist with residents. While less common as pests, they can sometimes cause their share of trouble. Some of these include:

North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)

north american porcupine on a branch
Photo Credit: Nick Fox / Canva Pro / License

Sometimes referred to as the prickly rodent, this spiky little creature is not a common guest in suburban areas. But, they do roam freely in Missouri’s forestry regions and can pose problems for property owners, especially dog owners.

Porcupine carry an average of 30,000 quills that will quickly teach any overeager pet a painful lesson if provoked. In addition to their notorious armor, porcupines are also known for causing nuisance damage by gnawing on wooden structures with their sharp teeth.

Pro tips:

  • Place salt licks away from populated areas to draw them away.
  • Cover wooden structures with metal flashing to make them less appealing for porcupines.

Squirrels and Chipmunks

side b side image of a chipmunk and a squirrel
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Chipmunk: Dopeyden / Canva Pro / License
Squirrel: Christopher Defalco / Canva Pro / License

No list of rodents would be complete without mentioning those adorable bushy tail creatures in the backyard. Eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) and fox squirrels (Sciurus niger), along with their smaller cousin, the eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) are common sights in most Missouri neighborhoods.

Although occasionally seen as pests due to the damage they can inflict on gardens, bird feeders, and even attics with their digging or nesting habits, squirrels and chipmunks are a cherished part of Missouri’s wildlife.

Pro tips

To deter squirrels or chipmunks from causing damage, you could try:

  • Install baffles on bird feeders;
  • Seal potential entry points to your home;
  • If they get too invasive, humane traps are always an option.

Rodent Health Risks in Missouri

Rodents, all kinds, are the leading bearers of diseases that can endanger health. Here in Missouri, several types of rodents could pose a health risk to people:

  • Hantavirus: Deer mice are the main carriers of Hantavirus, although other rodents can also be infected. You contract this virus by inhaling dust contaminated with rodent excreta. Even touching such traces potentially exposes you to the virus.
  • Salmonellosis: Norway rats and house mice are infamous for spreading this disease, which is a type of food poisoning. 
  • Other Diseases: Ticks, lice, and fleas — unwelcome hitchhikers on rats — often transmit illnesses like typhus and rat-bite fever to humans.

    See Related: What Diseases Do Rats, Mice, and Other Rodents Carry

FAQ about Rodents in Missouri

Are rats common in Missouri?

Yes, rats are pretty common in Missouri and the Midwest. Norway rats have made themselves at home all over the Show-Me State. Rat infestations increase with easy access to food and shelter.

What is the most common mouse in Missouri?

The most common mouse found in Missouri is the house mouse. These little fellas are quick, sneaky, and adapt easily, taking up residence in homes across both urban and rural parts of the state.

However, deer mice are also common, particularly in Missouri’s quieter, rural areas.

What is the best way to control rodents?

The best way to control rodents is by employing a combination of preventative measures alongside an effective control strategy. These include:

  • Seal potential entry points in the home
  • Keep environments clean and free of food sources to reduce attractiveness for rodents
  • Use traps to capture and get rid of existing rodents 
  • Hire a pest control professional when rodent populations become too large for DIY rodent control.

Remember, the type of control measures necessary may depend on the species and infestation size.

When to Hire a Pest Control Professional

Missouri has a fair share of pests, with rats and mice causing the most trouble. But don’t forget about voles, woodchucks, and nutria – they can do some hefty damage, too. We suggest keeping your property clean (outdoor and indoor), sealing entrances, and setting traps to prevent these pests. 

Are you dealing with a severe rodent infestation? It’s tough. Call a local pest control service. Pest control pros are experts in handling Missouri’s rodents and know exactly how to send them packing.

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Main Image Credits:
Background: Sean Pavone / Canva Pro / License
Vole: CreativeNature_nl / Canva Pro / License

Luminita Toma

Luminita Toma, an outdoor enthusiast, channels her passion for nature into her writing. With a deep understanding of pest control, she's always on the hunt for the latest and most effective solutions. Beyond her work, she loves to spend time with her nearest and dearest, sharing stories and laughs.