For all the ‘pack rats’ out there, what stories will your stash tell the world about you and your world long after you are gone? Not all ‘pack rats’ are human; there are some that are rodents or rats -really! The Wood Rat is usually called the ‘pack rat’ because of its behavior. These rats are fairly large, up to 20 inches long (tail included) with ears larger than a regular rat. There are several different species of this pack rat throughout the U.S. that have adapted to the different climates and habitats.
The pack rats that live in the southwest are quite busy all year long; they do not hibernate. They can live inside the base of cactus, in rock cracks, caves, old mines and small rock area openings on the sides of hills and mountains. These rodents are quite the architects; they build large complex structures called middens. Some Middens found are believed to be 50,000 years old and are a paleo-ecologists treasure trove. The pack rat collects twigs, seeds, nuts, leaves, and even scats to incorporate into these middens and cement it all together with their own urine. While out collecting, should this rodent come across something that sparkles or shimmers they are unable to resist; they will drop whatever they have and take that piece of broken mirror, coin or piece of shiny jewelry.
If you are ever out camping in the deserts of the southwest, and wake to find your new compass or pocket knife gone with nuts left in their place, you have probably been the victim of a pack rat raid! 20,000 years from now, your compass could be part of a midden that is being studied! Although this all sounds quite funny, these rodents are not to be taken lightly. They are the rats that carry plagues and diseases, not just while alive, but the dead or dying pack rats are dangerous as well. The fleas that are living on them will now need to search for a new host, bringing any disease with them. Never handle one with bare hands, it is best to have a professional take care of these rodents. They should be caught and relocated. These ‘pack rats’ can also be the source of the ‘scampering’ you may hear in your attic. You may not really be losing your mind thinking you are misplacing things, it might just be that the pack rats are taking them while you are not looking. Call a professional for help and removal of the entire pack!