At 4.21am this morning Ned The Rat shuffled off this mortal coil, his snout terminally rammed into a parcel of organic peanut butter wrapped in Mercer cheese rind. It was a sad moment, but Ned had danced with death for many days now, always cleverly evading setting off the trap, unaware his every action was being streamed to the Internet to a growing audience.
We extracted him from the ceiling the following day, and gently placed him into a coffin for classification. Weighing in at just 80.5 grams, he was roughly 2.5 times the size of a full grown mouse ruling out the likelihood of a mat rouse hybrid. However, we still needed to determine his exact taxonomy.
New Zealand is home to three species of rat, The Pacific rat (or kiore), The Norway Rat, and the Ship rat, or common rat.
Kiore are now only found on Stewart Island and a few other off shore islands. Introduced by the Maori around the 10th century, they have spiritual, cultural, and historically, occasional lunch value. The smallest of the three species of rats, they would make for only a very light rat snack.
The Norway rat, or brown rat (Rattus norvegicus), is the largest of the three. It is chunky and pale gray or brown in colour, with a short stumpy tail, usually pink or tan. A full grown Norway rat can weigh over 500g. They are primarily found on the ground, in burrows, and under buildings. They are the only New Zealand rat to dig burrows, and can have an extensive connected network of runs to their food sources.
This is the type of rat I remember seeing on the farm, grotesque bloated rodents with a hideous pink tail. Gorging on offal, food shortage was never a problem, and they seemed to balloon to the size of a small cat. Also known as sewer rats, their muscular hind legs make them strong swimmers, and they could easily manage a harbour crossing. They are capable of jumping 80cm vertically and up to 120cm horizontally. These rats are beasts to be reckoned with.
New Zealand’s second species of European rat is the ship rat, or common rat, sometimes also known as the roof rat (here was the first hint that this was the likely species Ned subscribed to).
Ship rats weigh in at around 130 – 180g. Their most distinctive feature is their tail, long and thin, nearly twice the length of the entire animal. They have excellent balance, and are often found in ceilings.
Indeed, Ned was a ship rat. His tail, large flimsy ears, narrow pointed muzzle and long sleek figure all matched the description of a young juvenile male rattus rattus, or common household rat teen.
His ancestors likely hitched a ride on the Platina, the first immigrant ship to dock in Auckland.
Alas Ned’s journey came to an abrupt end last night. (Snuff footage here).