Yup. You’re right. That's a photo of a pack rat midden. Whose? Mine, sort of. It’s snuggled up against the east wall in the side yard, next to a shed that’s next to the wood pile. And why on earth, you ask, is it still there? Why haven’t we destroyed it and annihilated the inhabitant. Why indeed? Nothing short of the current, political climate polarizes southwestern desert dwellers as much as their stand on pack rats. But here’s a quote to live by: a rat is neither good nor evil, it does what a rat has to do.”
Basically, pack rats are just little creatures trying to live their lives the way they were designed to live. That’s just fine and dandy you say, but not in one’s backyard. I get that, I really do, but then there are rats—nasty, city garbage-can rats—and then there are pack rats—desert creatures who are the homesteaders and hoarders of the animal kingdom. You have to admit, they are industrious, interesting little creatures, even entertaining. (But even at our house it’s not all fun and games. We’ve had pack rats charge up a drain pipe and make a home in our attic—an issue still be to resolved.)
But… let me share my first pack rat encounter with you: A few years ago, I was on my way to a breakfast cookout when I noticed what looked like mouse droppings on the floor of my car. Odd. Hours after returning home, I went into the garage to get something out of the back seat of my car. I opened the door, leaned in, and immediately caught sight of the rear end of a very large rodent, back feet flying, diving under the front car seat. I sprang backwards and nearly cold-conked myself on the car door frame. Holy crap. This was one huge rat creature (I later learned it was a pack rat), and it must have ridden along with me all morning. Not the best feeling.
My husband immediately placed a baited, live trap in the back seat of the car. Hours later, still no rat. I don’t remember why, but I opened the console glove box and was met with a very cute, cartoon rat face and two, very dark, eyeballs staring up at me. Faster than I could react, the creature spun around, and the next thing I saw was a tail disappearing into the back of the glove box and up into the console. Now what?
I gave it some time, went back into the garage, and peeked through the car window. The glove box door was still open, and there was the pack rat, curled up, her back to me, sound asleep on a pile of Kleenex. I wondered if maybe she was depressed about being stuck in the car. But, no time for rat analysis. I quietly scrounged up two pairs of heavy gardening gloves, put both on, carefully opened the car door, and GRABBED Ms. Rat. She didn't even see it coming. She slipped and slid around under the gloves and the layers of Kleenex I’d scooped up with her, struggled free, dropped to the garage floor, and ran under the car. Not much left to do but open the garage door enough for her to escape. The main thing was, the rat intruder was out of my car. Never saw her in the car again. Probably traumatized.
My next encounter happened when I accidently disturbed a midden, again in my backyard. By the next day, the clever little occupant had circled her midden, several feet out, with thin branches/twigs of mesquite, laid thorn side up! She created a booby trap. Don’t tell me these are not intelligent creatures. Now I know these rats are also super destructive and will rip things up to find soft furnishings for their little houses. I’ve heard all the horror stories about them eating through the insulation around wiring in cars. And I truly do know I can’t continue to let this most recent rodent resident continue to live in close proximity to our house. Again, we still have to deal with whatever damage there might be in the attic. And…my husband and I don’t share the same attitude about pack rats. Maybe I saw too many Mickey Mouse cartoons when I was little, not to mention those adorable chipmunks Chip and Dale!
Removal, being shipped out to nice desert location, is most likely in this rodent’s future. We’ve done this before, and didn’t expect them back. Just can’t kill them. I’ve decided that rather than trying to defend my position on humanitarian terms, I’ll just become a Buddhist. Most people accept behaviors if you state that you are simply following the dogma of your religion. Might work. OOOMMMM and out.
Lynn Nicholas - AUTHOR oF Dancing Between The Beats
My blog is a window into my world. My slice-of-life narratives are triggered by life's