Discover 12 Rodents Running Rampant In Kentucky

Black Rat
Ernie Cooper/

Written by Alan Lemus

Updated: July 7, 2023

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Have you ever wondered about the tiny, furry creatures scurrying around your yard or even in your attic? 

Kentucky is home to an astonishing variety of rodents, each with its own unique characteristics and roles in the ecosystem. 

In this article, we’ll explore 12 fascinating rodents found throughout the state, ranging from the ones you might see every day to those that are more elusive. 

12 rodents running rampant in Kentucky
These rodents are among the most adaptable creatures in Kentucky.

Join us as we delve into the world of these amazing creatures and learn about their habitats, diets, behaviors, and how they impact our environment. 

Get ready for a fun journey into the wild side of Kentucky’s rodent population!

1. Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)

Eastern Gray Squirrel

The eastern gray


is a common rodent you can find in Kentucky.

Say hello to the eastern gray squirrel, a fluffy-tailed critter you’ve probably seen hopping around your neighborhood! 

These agile acrobats can often be found darting from tree to tree, searching for tasty treats. 

Description and Habitat

With their bushy tails and nimble bodies, eastern gray squirrels are easy to spot. Sporting a gray coat with a hint of brown, they blend seamlessly into their woodland homes. 

You’ll find them in forests, parks, and even your yard, always on the move and looking for their next meal.

Diet and Behavior

Eastern gray squirrels are masters of foraging, feasting on a diverse menu that includes nuts, seeds, berries, and insects. They’re also expert hoarders, burying acorns and other goodies to snack on later. 

These small but mighty creatures play a key role in seed dispersal, helping forests grow and thrive.

2. Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus)

eastern chipmunk with cheeks full

Eastern chipmunks have handy cheek pouches for transporting food to their burrows.

Get ready to meet the adorable eastern chipmunk, a small, striped critter with a big personality! 

These tiny charmers love to scurry around, chirping and playing hide-and-seek in the underbrush. 

Description and Habitat

Eastern chipmunks are easy to spot with their unique striped patterns, fluffy cheeks, and inquisitive eyes. 

They make their homes in wooded areas, creating burrows complete with chambers for sleeping, eating, and storing food. 

Keep an eye out for them in forests, parks, and even your garden!

Diet and Behavior

With a taste for nuts, seeds, berries, and insects, eastern chipmunks are versatile foragers. They stuff their cheek pouches to the brim, carrying their bounty back to their burrows for storage. 

These industrious rodents are also known for their lively “chip” calls, warning others of potential danger.

3. Northern Short-Tailed Shrew (Blarina brevicauda)

Blarina brevicauda common rodents in Kentucky

The short-tailed shrew is small, but it is a fierce rodent in Kentucky.

Prepare to be amazed by the northern short-tailed shrew, a tiny but fierce rodent lurking beneath the forest floor. Although they might not be as well-known as other rodents, these small powerhouses boast some surprising abilities. 

Description and Habitat

Sporting a velvety gray coat and a short, stubby tail, the northern short-tailed shrew prefers to stay hidden. 

They inhabit moist, environments like forests, meadows, and marshes, where they can tunnel through the undergrowth in search of food.

Diet and Behavior

Don’t be fooled by their size. These shrews are fearsome hunters. 

They feast on insects, worms, and even small mammals, using venomous saliva to catch their prey. 

As they forage, they rely on their keen sense of smell and touch to understand their surroundings since their vision is limited.

4. White-Footed Mouse (Peromyscus leucopus)

White-footed Mouse

The white-footed mouse lives hidden in the shadows in Kentucky.

Let’s shine the spotlight on the white-footed mouse, a small but resilient rodent that often goes unnoticed. Yet, these night creatures lead fascinating lives hidden in the shadows. 

Description and Habitat

The white-footed mouse sports a brownish-gray coat, a white belly, and, as their name suggests, white feet. 

They thrive in various habitats, including forests, grasslands, and even the outskirts of human settlements. 

These agile rodents like to climb and can often be found nesting in trees or burrows, venturing out under cover of darkness.

Diet and Behavior

White-footed mice are opportunistic eaters, feeding on seeds, fruits, insects, and fungi

They’re known for their impressive agility, using their tails for balance as they deftly move through their surroundings. Unfortunately, these mice are also quite territorial, relying on scent markings to stake their claim.

5. Southern Red-Backed Vole (Myodes gapperi)

Myodes gapperi- common rodents in Kentucky

Southern red-backed voles hide in the forests of Kentucky.

Meet the southern red-backed vole, a shy but captivating rodent that often goes unnoticed. Hidden away in Kentucky’s forests, these small creatures have unique features that set them apart. 

Description and Habitat

This vole is easily identified by its reddish-brown stripe running along its back. 

Sporting a small, rounded body and a short tail, this secretive rodent prefers the solitude of dense forests. They make their homes in fallen logs, stumps, or burrows, staying close to the forest floor.

Diet and Behavior

Primarily vegetarian, southern red-backed voles enjoy a diet of leaves, seeds, and fruits, sometimes snacking on insects and fungi. 

They’re mostly active at night, using their keen sense of smell to forage for food in the undergrowth. 

When it comes to communication, they rely on a variety of squeaks and chirps.

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6. Eastern Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys humulis)

Eastern harvest mouse

The eastern harvest mouse is one of the most common rodents in Kentucky.

Introducing the eastern harvest mouse, a tiny but tenacious rodent that thrives in Kentucky’s diverse landscapes. Although small in size, these little mice lead intriguing lives full of adventure. 

Description and Habitat

Eastern harvest mice are petite creatures with a delicate build, sporting a brownish-gray coat and a white belly. Their long, hairless tails help them move through their preferred habitats, which include grasslands, marshes, and meadows. 

They construct spherical nests made of grasses, often suspended above the ground for added protection.

Diet and Behavior

These tiny mice have a taste for seeds, insects, and sometimes fruit. 

Eastern harvest mice are night rodents, using their nimble bodies and keen senses to find food under cover of darkness. They’re also proficient climbers, making use of their prehensile tails to maneuver through vegetation with ease.

7. Woodland Vole (Microtus pinetorum)

Microtus pinetorum- common rodents in Kentucky

The woodland vole plays a role in Kentucky’s ecosystem.

Get ready to discover the woodland vole, a small, secretive rodent that lives beneath the forest floor. With their hidden lifestyle and fascinating behaviors, these creatures play a unique role in Kentucky’s ecosystem. 

Description and Habitat

Woodland voles boast a compact, cylindrical body, short legs, and a brownish-gray coat that helps them blend into their surroundings. 

They prefer the seclusion of wooded areas, creating a network of tunnels and burrows under the leaf litter, where they can forage and nest in safety.

Diet and Behavior

These little herbivores have a preference for roots, tubers, and the occasional seed or fruit. 

Active both day and night, woodland voles rely on their sharp senses and agility to avoid predators while foraging for food. They’re also known for their strong social bonds, often living in communal burrow systems.

8. Southern Bog Lemming (Synaptomys cooperi)

Southern bog lemming

Southern bog lemming is a wetland-living rodent in Kentucky.

Welcome to the world of the southern bog lemming, a secretive and elusive rodent that calls Kentucky’s wetlands home. These tiny creatures have unique adaptations and behaviors that make them fascinating to study. 

Description and Habitat

Southern bog lemmings are small, stocky rodents with a brownish-gray coat and short, furry tails. 

They thrive in wetlands, bogs, and moist meadows, where they can burrow into the damp soil and construct intricate tunnel systems to stay safe from predators.

Diet and Behavior

These little herbivores have a taste for grasses, sedges, and occasionally roots and fungi. 

Southern bog lemmings are primarily nocturnal, using their keen sense of smell and touch to navigate their dark, subterranean world. 

They lead solitary lives, only coming together for mating or when environmental conditions require it.

9. House Mouse (Mus musculus)

House Mouse

The house mouse is resourceful and finds shelter in many places in Kentucky.

You might be familiar with the house mouse, a tiny, adaptable rodent that has been living alongside humans for thousands of years. As one of the most widespread rodents in the world, they have some fascinating traits and behaviors. 

Description and Habitat

House mice are small, agile rodents with a grayish-brown coat, large ears, and a long, hairless tail. 

They’ve adapted to a wide range of environments, from rural fields to urban dwellings. 

These resourceful creatures are skilled at finding shelter and resources in both natural and human-made structures.

Diet and Behavior

Opportunistic omnivores, house mice will eat almost anything they can find, from seeds and insects to human food scraps. 

They’re primarily nocturnal, using their excellent sense of smell and hearing to navigate their surroundings while avoiding predators. House mice are also known for their rapid reproduction, which contributes to their success in various habitats.

10. Norway Rat (Rattus norvegicus)

Norway rat in natural habitat

Norway rats are large rodents that live in sewers, buildings, fields, and forests.

Let’s delve into the world of the Norway rat, a robust and adaptable rodent that has made its way into nearly every corner of the globe, including Kentucky. With their cunning and resilience, these rats have some fascinating behaviors and traits. 

Description and Habitat

Norway rats are large, sturdy rodents with a brownish-gray coat, small ears, and a scaly, semi-naked tail. 

They thrive in a variety of environments, from sewers and buildings to fields and forests. These resourceful creatures have a knack for finding shelter and sustenance in both natural and human-made settings.

Diet and Behavior

As opportunistic omnivores, Norway rats are known to eat almost anything they come across, from plants and insects to human food waste. 

They are primarily nocturnal, relying on their keen senses to navigate and avoid predators. Norway rats are also highly social, living in complex colonies with a hierarchical structure.

11. Black Rat (Rattus rattus)

Black rat

The black rat is a peaceful rat and a versatile creature that thrives in various places in Kentucky.

Get ready to uncover the secrets of the black rat, an agile and adaptable rodent that has made its presence known around the world, including in Kentucky. With their remarkable survival skills and intriguing behaviors, these rats have fascinating stories to tell.

Description and Habitat

Black rats, also known as roof rats, are medium-sized rodents with sleek, dark coats, large ears, and long, hairless tails. 

They are versatile creatures, thriving in a wide range of environments, from forests and fields to urban areas. As adept climbers, they are often found nesting in trees, rafters, or attics.

Diet and Behavior

These opportunistic omnivores have a diverse diet, including fruits, seeds, insects, and human food scraps. 

Black rats are primarily nocturnal, using their exceptional agility and sharp senses to navigate their surroundings while evading predators. 

They are social animals, living in colonies and displaying a complex hierarchy.

12. Nutria (Myocastor coypus)

capybara vs nutria

Nutria thrives in the wetlands of Kentucky.

Prepare to be amazed by the Nutria, an oversized, semi-aquatic rodent that has established itself in Kentucky’s wetlands. With their distinct appearance and surprising behaviors, these creatures have fascinating tales to share. 

Description and Habitat

Nutria, also known as coypu, are large rodents with a stocky build, brown fur, and a long, round, hairless tail. 

They possess webbed hind feet, making them excellent swimmers. Nutria thrive in wetland habitats, such as marshes, swamps, and riverbanks, where they build burrows and construct platforms made of vegetation for resting and feeding.

Diet and Behavior

These herbivorous rodents have a taste for aquatic plants, roots, and stems. 

Nutria are most active during twilight and nighttime hours, using their sharp senses and swimming skills to forage for food while avoiding predators. 

They are social creatures, often living in groups and displaying a complex hierarchy.

Key Takeaways

And there you have it—a thrilling glimpse into the world of 12 incredible rodents running rampant in Kentucky. 

From the playful eastern gray squirrel to the elusive southern bog lemming, each has its own unique charm and role in the environment. We hope this journey has sparked your curiosity and inspired you to learn more about these fascinating creatures.

Summary of 12 Rodents Running Rampant In Kentucky

RodentFun Fact
1Eastern Gray SquirrelThey are master foragers and hoarders with amazing memories
2Eastern ChipmunkThese little cuties stuff their cheek pouches full of food to store in their burrows for later
3Northern Short-Tailed ShrewAlthough tiny with poor eyesight – they are fierce predators with toxic saliva
4White-Footed MouseThese little rodents are agile and territorial
5Southern Red-Backed VoleVoles have a powerful sense of smell that they use to hunt at night
6Eastern Harvest MouseThey construct spherical nests made of grasses, often suspended above the ground
7Woodland VoleThey are social animals that live in communal burrows underground
8Southern Bog LemmingSpecially adapted for living in a wetland environment
9House MouseKnown for their rapid reproduction and adaptability
10Norway RatThey eat almost anything and live in large communities with complex hierarchies
11Black RatAlso known as roof rats because of their climbing ability
12NutriaThese large, semi-aquatic rodents have webbed feet and are excellent swimmers

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About the Author

Alan is a freelance writer and an avid traveler. He specializes in travel content. When he visits home he enjoys spending time with his family Rottie, Opie.

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