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Every week there are new marvels to look for in the outdoors, and Discover Nature highlights these attractions. The Missouri Department of Conservation’s Josh Hartwig brings us the stories of river otters, luna moths, red buds, and other actors as they take center stage in nature’s theater.You can hear Discover Nature, Mondays at 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m.

Discover Nature: The Value of a Rodent

Missouri Department of Conservation
A wood rat.

November 6 - 12  

Discover Nature this week and the value of a rodent.

Though some folks scream and climb the highest point possible when they see a rodent,  there isn't a reason to avoid native rodent species according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The term "rodent" may raise images of disease-infested vermin living in garbage-strewn alleys. Actually, most of the negative images arise from two unwelcome imports -- the house mouse and the Norway rat. These old-world immigrants are not typical of native rodents, though. 

Rodents make up the largest group of mammals. Besides rats and mice, they include: squirrels, chipmunks, gophers, groundhogs, muskrats, and the largest rodent in North America -- the beaver. Household pets like hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs are also classified as rodents.

The word "rodent" comes from a Latin term and means "gnawing" -- something that all rodents do. 

Rodents have special front teeth, or incisors. We use our incisors when we eat corn on the cob! But unlike our teeth, a rodent's front teeth never stop growing. So gnawing is not just a habit to a rodent, it's necessary  to keep their teeth worn down.

Rubbish-drawn rats and mice are undesirable, but most rodents are harmless and beneficial. Although they sometimes choose the wrong things to gnaw on. When a squirrel gnaws on your bird-feeder or on your deck, it's not trying to be destructive -- it's practicing good rodent dental care.

Rodents provide a natural length in their environment through seed dispersal, providing food for predators, and other benefits.

For more information about native rodents in Missouri, go online to MissouriConservation.org.

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