© 2019 Copyright by P. K. H. Groth, Denver, Colorado, USA All rights reserved - See contact page for for permission to republish article excerpts.
Packrat Problems
You may encounter missing objects problems and sleepless nights if you camp near old buildings, mine ruins or abandoned timber camps. Thus, this expose for the uninitiated. Packrats (Wood rats, Rafter rats:) There are 17 species of Neotoma , with expected variations in descriptions. They are large (adults one foot or more to tail tip) with hairy tails and somewhat small feet for their size. The bodies are typically paunchy and sort of floppy. Ears are dish-shaped and eyes black. Packrats build elaborate nests (often large) using any materials available. Rats in the wild may use cactus bases for protection, or caves, cliff crevices or even hollow stumps. These rats readily adapt to living around humans where they build nests in sheds, barns, garages and cellars. They love attics and walls if there are entrance opportunities: they are excellent chewers to enlarge holes. While packrats are cute and interesting animals, they can ransack a vacant cabin, neglected home or stored vehicle engine compartment. Packrats are the clowns of the rat family and many consider them as lovable like a hamster. They are nocturnal miscreants, continually messing around and foraging for nest building materials and food; some nests can become enormous with their kleptomaniac habits. They are noisy to boisterous, particularly at night. Their urine is particularly strong and obnoxious. They tend to urinate in the same place to the extent that artificial urine ”rock” can be created in caves over thousands of years. They are attracted to shiny objects and will often leave an item they are carrying for something they encounter that seems better to them, hence their name “trade rats”. (The pictured packrat was caught outside our house when a neighbor rat-proofed his shed, which was somewhat well nested for the upcoming winter.) Trapping Mice and Rats Poisons: I strongly recommend you do not use poisons. They enter the food chain when cats, dogs, birds and other animals eat the poisoned rodents. Warfarin-based poisons that make a rodents exit a building to find water are particulary damaging to the ecosystem. Poisons may be eaten by children. Mice and rats decaying in buildings is not sanitary, nor is the aroma appreciated. Deer mouse urine is a lingering danger because of the hanta virus. Bait: Use peanut butter worked well into the trap trigger. Let the peanut butter dry 2-3 days on a paper blotter which removes oil to make a thicker paste. This will prevent small mice and insects from licking away the gooey butter. Packrats like fruit in the fall and winter, especially a small chunk of aromatic apple. A better mouse trap can be devised by placing a vegetable twisty wire around the trap trigger (pull off the plastic foil-wrapped vegetable twisties work easier). This makes the mouse work harder to get the bait and increases trapping success (see trap photo). Trap placement: Place traps in a protected place or box along walls outside and insides. The box prevents killing birds and squirrels, and reduces rebaiting if wind and rain trips traps, and trap avoidance training of your rodent prey. Mouse traps should be placed on newspaper or cardboard. This prevents soiling of floor with rodent feces, blood and hazardous urine if a deer mouse is trapped. (The hanta virus is transmitted in mouse urine which may be expelled with death and rigor mortis contractions.) Use plastic newspaper bags as gloves and handle the trap cautiously and slowly. Invert the plastic bag and throw out the trap with the deer mouse; do not use it again.) Packrats present a special problem because of their size and their ability to learn to avoid hazards a second time they encounter the hazard (good avoidance learners). So you have to plan and prepare so that you     get   a   packrat   the   first time . I recommend placing a RAT size trap in an enclosure such as this box with an entrance hole cut in one end. This leads the rat to place its head over the trigger when it enters, where the trap spring will instantly kill it. Being curious animals, packrats may circle an open area trap and trigger it with their tail or foot. Wounding a packrat may allow it to escape to its nest, which is probably in the shed or house where you do not want it to rot and smell. For this reason, I also recommend a thin wire (not chewable string) attach the trap to a fixed or heavy object so that the rat does not drag away the trap. Note: if your outside mouse traps are missing, they may have been taken by a cat, fox, or a packrat building a nest. Another problem if you are in packrat country is that they steal mouse traps for their nest. We solved that problem at our cabin by screwing mouse traps to a wooden plank too big for the rat to carry off. We leave several of these planks on cardboard in our cabin when we leave for the winter, in case the mice somehow get in. It is much easier to remove the traps together in the spring. Wiring   the   bait   to     the   trap   trigger   is   essential . Packrats nimbly use their paws rather than their snouts to test bait. Once again, you do not want the animal to escape and die in your dwelling. Hunting Camps, Sheds, cabins and Barns: It is recommended people open all doors and windows and remain outside a while to let fresh air air into little used buildings to let air and to let dust circulate out. This will reduce the inhalation of dried deer mouse urine virus microcrystals wafted up by air currents. It also allows mice to calmly leave which is very important. Mice   commonly   urinate   when   panicked   to   run   fast. (Hawks with UV light sensitive eyes can see mouse urine trails when hunting.) There are six common ways to contract the hanta virus. 1.) Breathing in airborne mouse urine or droppings crystals/dust/particles when cleaning a shed, barn, garage with a broom, vacuum cleaner, pitchfork or shovel which raises dust. Shed cleaning should not be done within 7- 8 days (thought to be life viability span of the virus on surfaces) of the last mouse infestation. Cleaning should be with soapy Chorlox water to prevent dust from rising. 2.) Touching the mouth or nose aftter contact with mouse urine, saliva, feces, or blood (such as after handling traps or dead mice. Do not handle live deer mice, since a bite may transmit the virus to you. 3.) Eating food contaminated by urine, droppings or saliva of an infected mouse; dispose of all contaminated food. Wash food can tops and bottles if they were in a contaminated area or if they were in outside storage). 4.) Being bitten by an infected mouse. Never domesticate a wild mouse as a pet, even if it seems a cute thing! 5.) Pets bringing in a mouse that is then handled so there is contact with urine, blood, feces. 6.) Hikers and campers should be careful when seeking shelter in trails helters and old buildings, especially in low altitude areas where mice are not killed by winter cold. How prevalent is Hanta: The hanta virus is thought to be indigenous. It was not recognized until about twenty years ago when the deer mouse was discovered to be the host and and the virus was recognized as the cause for historic, new reports of sporadic occurrences of a strange “new” illness. Recognition of more cases in the US caused the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention to start monitoring cases. In the ten years of monitoring so far, there were 690 recognized   and   reported cases in 35 states, or about 6.9 per year of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)illnesses in Colorado. The fatality rate was 38%. The map below illustrates the range of recognized hanta cases and number of people contracting hanta during the last ten years. Packrat Stories Lost and Found Pet: Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is quite a wealthy, elite town and almost anything can happen. A woman found a pet chinchilla and tried to return it to what must have been a grieving young person. No one answered her newspaper ads or postings. In December 2016, she accepted the pet as hers and took it to the veterinarian for a check up, since oddly it still had its short summer fur rather than a luxurious winter pelt. The TV news report was not detailed enough to describe how tactfully the vet was when he declared the valuable chinchilla to be only a lowly packrat. I can understand how the woman fell in love with the critter. They are playful, gentle, and inquisitive and adjust to people. The photo shows a packrat captured at our cabin by teasing it into a bucket with a piece of apple. I did not have the heart to murder the helpless Miss, so I carted it several miles away to old coal mine ruins and released her to find a mate. We need hearts, and we don’t need to kill everything. Careless Hunt Clients: An outfitter near the Flat Tops Wilderness had a license that permitted one raised wood platform for the mess tent. He related that his clients were down right inconsiderate when they took their after dinner and breakfast coffee outdoors. They would bring back their cups, but leave spoons where-ever to get lost. Soon there was a spoon shortage. One day the cook returned after saddling horses to find a packrat trying to pull a serving ladle through a knothole in the floor. That evening they pried up several boards and found about ten years of hoarded spoons in the rat nest plus a trove of items that were thought to have been lost afield, or stolen by help or clients. I seems that packrat was enamoured to just spoons, having left forks and knives. What is in the Wall!!! After we refurbished (rebuilt) a settlers cabin we had bad experience. We arrived for a planned Memorial Day week of relaxation at our remote retreat on a large Wyoming ranch. I did some additional repairs, and set out mouse poison under the woodpile. The weather became very warm. On the third day something arose, and it was not in a biblical story. An odd aroma began to percolate through the plywood, tarpaper and barn wood paneling near the head of my bed. On day five it became unbearable and on day six we were headed home. Evidently, a poisoned packrat had died in the wall and putrefied in the heat. Now you comprehend why I warn trappers to tie the rattrap to a large object or stake, and not to use poison!
© 2016 -2017 Copyright by P. K. H. Groth, Denver, Colorado, USA All rights reserved - See contact page for for permission to republish article excerpts.
Packrat Problems
You may encounter missing objects problems and sleepless nights if you camp near old buildings, mine ruins or abandoned timber camps. Thus, this expose for the uninitiated. Packrats (Wood rats, Rafter rats:) There are 17 species of Neotoma , with expected variations in descriptions. They are large (adults one foot or more to tail tip) with hairy tails and somewhat small feet for their size. The bodies are typically paunchy and sort of floppy. Ears are dish-shaped and eyes black. Packrats build elaborate nests (often large) using any materials available. Rats in the wild may use cactus bases for protection, or caves, cliff crevices or even hollow stumps. These rats readily adapt to living around humans where they build nests in sheds, barns, garages and cellars. They love attics and walls if there are entrance opportunities: they are excellent chewers to enlarge holes. While packrats are cute and interesting animals, they can ransack a vacant cabin, neglected home or stored vehicle engine compartment. Packrats are the clowns of the rat family and many consider them as lovable like a hamster. They are nocturnal miscreants, continually messing around and foraging for nest building materials and food; some nests can become enormous with their kleptomaniac habits. They are noisy to boisterous, particularly at night. Their urine is particularly strong and obnoxious. They tend to urinate in the same place to the extent that artificial urine ”rock” can be created in caves over thousands of years. They are attracted to shiny objects and will often leave an item they are carrying for something they encounter that seems better to them, hence their name “trade rats”. (The pictured packrat was caught outside our house when a neighbor rat-proofed his shed, which was somewhat well nested for the upcoming winter.) Trapping Mice and Rats Poisons: I strongly recommend you do not use poisons. They enter the food chain when cats, dogs, birds and other animals eat the poisoned rodents. Warfarin-based poisons that make a rodents exit a building to find water are particulary damaging to the ecosystem. Poisons may be eaten by children. Mice and rats decaying in buildings is not sanitary, nor is the aroma appreciated. Deer mouse urine is a lingering danger because of the hanta virus. Bait: Use peanut butter worked well into the trap trigger. Let the peanut butter dry 2-3 days on a paper blotter which removes oil to make a thicker paste. This will prevent small mice and insects from licking away the gooey butter. Packrats like fruit in the fall and winter, especially a small chunk of aromatic apple. A better mouse trap can be devised by placing a vegetable twisty wire around the trap trigger (pull off the plastic foil-wrapped vegetable twisties work easier). This makes the mouse work harder to get the bait and increases trapping success (see trap photo). Trap placement: Place traps in a protected place or box along walls outside and insides. The box prevents killing birds and squirrels, and reduces rebaiting if wind and rain trips traps, and trap avoidance training of your rodent prey. Mouse traps should be placed on newspaper or cardboard. This prevents soiling of floor with rodent feces, blood and hazardous urine if a deer mouse is trapped. (The hanta virus is transmitted in mouse urine which may be expelled with death and rigor mortis contractions.) Use plastic newspaper bags as gloves and handle the trap cautiously and slowly. Invert the plastic bag and throw out the trap with the deer mouse; do not use it again.) Packrats present a special problem because of their size and their ability to learn to avoid hazards a second time they encounter the hazard (good avoidance learners). So you have to plan and prepare so that you     get   a packrat   the   first   time . I recommend placing a RAT size trap in an enclosure such as this box with an entrance hole cut in one end. This leads the rat to place its head over the trigger when it enters, where the trap spring will instantly kill it. Being curious animals, packrats may circle an open area trap and trigger it with their tail or foot. Wounding a packrat may allow it to escape to its nest, which is probably in the shed or house where you do not want it to rot and smell. For this reason, I also recommend a thin wire (not chewable string) attach the trap to a fixed or heavy object so that the rat does not drag away the trap. Note: if your outside mouse traps are missing, they may have been taken by a cat, fox, or a packrat building a nest. Another problem if you are in packrat country is that they steal mouse traps for their nest. We solved that problem at our cabin by screwing mouse traps to a wooden plank too big for the rat to carry off. We leave several of these planks on cardboard in our cabin when we leave for the winter, in case the mice somehow get in. It is much easier to remove the traps together in the spring. Wiring   the   bait   to     the   trap   trigger   is   essential . Packrats nimbly use their paws rather than their snouts to test bait. Once again, you do not want the animal to escape and die in your dwelling. Hunting Camps, Sheds, cabins and Barns: It is recommended people open all doors and windows and remain outside a while to let fresh air air into little used buildings to let air and to let dust circulate out. This will reduce the inhalation of dried deer mouse urine virus microcrystals wafted up by air currents. It also allows mice to calmly leave which is very important. Mice   commonly   urinate   when panicked    to    run    fast. (Hawks with UV light sensitive eyes can see mouse urine trails when hunting.) There are six common ways to contract the hanta virus. 1.) Breathing in airborne mouse urine or droppings crystals/dust/particles when cleaning a shed, barn, garage with a broom, vacuum cleaner, pitchfork or shovel which raises dust. Shed cleaning should not be done within 7-8 days (thought to be life viability span of the virus on surfaces) of the last mouse infestation. Cleaning should be with soapy Chorlox water to prevent dust from rising. 2.) Touching the mouth or nose aftter contact with mouse urine, saliva, feces, or blood (such as after handling traps or dead mice. Do not handle live deer mice, since a bite may transmit the virus to you. 3.) Eating food contaminated by urine, droppings or saliva of an infected mouse; dispose of all contaminated food. Wash food can tops and bottles if they were in a contaminated area or if they were in outside storage). 4.) Being bitten by an infected mouse. Never domesticate a wild mouse as a pet, even if it seems a cute thing! 5.) Pets bringing in a mouse that is then handled so there is contact with urine, blood, feces. 6.) Hikers and campers should be careful when seeking shelter in trails helters and old buildings, especially in low altitude areas where mice are not killed by winter cold. How prevalent is Hanta: The hanta virus is thought to be indigenous. It was not recognized until about twenty years ago when the deer mouse was discovered to be the host and and the virus was recognized as the cause for historic, new reports of sporadic occurrences of a strange “new” illness. Recognition of more cases in the US caused the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention to start monitoring cases. In the ten years of monitoring so far, there were 690 recognized   and   reported cases in 35 states, or about 6.9 per year of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)illnesses in Colorado. The fatality rate was 38%. The map below illustrates the range of recognized hanta cases and number of people contracting hanta during the last ten years. Packrat Stories Lost and Found Pet: Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is quite a wealthy, elite town and almost anything can happen. A woman found a pet chinchilla and tried to return it to what must have been a grieving young person. No one answered her newspaper ads or postings. In December 2016, she accepted the pet as hers and took it to the veterinarian for a check up, since oddly it still had its short summer fur rather than a luxurious winter pelt. The TV news report was not detailed enough to describe how tactfully the vet was when he declared the valuable chinchilla to be only a lowly packrat. I can understand how the woman fell in love with the critter. They are playful, gentle, and inquisitive and adjust to people. The photo shows a packrat captured at our cabin by teasing it into a bucket with a piece of apple. I did not have the heart to murder the helpless Miss, so I carted it several miles away to old coal mine ruins and released her to find a mate. We need hearts, and we don’t need to kill everything. Careless Hunt Clients: An outfitter near the Flat Tops Wilderness had a license that permitted one raised wood platform for the mess tent. He related that his clients were down right inconsiderate when they took their after dinner and breakfast coffee outdoors. They would bring back their cups, but leave spoons where-ever to get lost. Soon there was a spoon shortage. One day the cook returned after saddling horses to find a packrat trying to pull a serving ladle through a knothole in the floor. That evening they pried up several boards and found about ten years of hoarded spoons in the rat nest plus a trove of items that were thought to have been lost afield, or stolen by help or clients. I seems that packrat was enamoured to just spoons, having left forks and knives. What is in the Wall!!! After we refurbished (rebuilt) a settlers cabin we had bad experience. We arrived for a planned Memorial Day week of relaxation at our remote retreat on a large Wyoming ranch. I did some additional repairs, and set out mouse poison under the woodpile. The weather became very warm. On the third day something arose, and it was not in a biblical story. An odd aroma began to percolate through the plywood, tarpaper and barn wood paneling near the head of my bed. On day five it became unbearable and on day six we were headed home. Evidently, a poisoned packrat had died in the wall and putrefied in the heat. Now you comprehend why I warn trappers to tie the rattrap to a large object or stake, and not to use poison!