Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for



Cotton Rats

Date of this Version

July 1994


The hispid cotton rat (Sigmodon hispidus) is a moderately large, robust rodent with a scaly, sparsely haired tail that is shorter than the combined head and body. Cotton rats have relatively large eyes. The ears are large but almost hidden in the fur. They have four toes and a small thumb on their front feet and five toes on each hind foot. The cotton rat has very small internal cheek pouches. Distinguishing characteristics are the rough grizzled appearance of the blackish or grayish fur and the rather stiff black guard hairs.
The hispid cotton rat occurs over most of the southern United States, from the southeastern tip of California, southern Arizona and New Mexico, north to eastern Colorado, eastward through the southern portions of Kansas and Missouri, through Tennessee and North Carolina, and southward along the Atlantic coast through Florida, the Gulf states, and up the Rio Grande Valley. Two other species of cotton rat, the least cotton rat (S. minimus) and the yellownose cotton rat (S. ochrognathus), occur only in small areas of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. They are very similar to the hispid cotton rat.

Exclusion: Usually not practical.
Cultural Methods: Remove dense vegetation.
Repellents: Not effective.
Toxicants: 2% zinc phosphide on dry bait.
Fumigants: Not practical.
Trapping: Snap traps (rat traps). Live traps.
Shooting: Not practical.