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Wood Rats (Pack Rats)

Colorado is home to six species of wood rats with a majority of the state being home to at least one species or another.  The largest of the species is the bushy-tailed woodrat with a length of roughly 16 inches long and weighing in at nearly three-quarters of a pound.  The smallest is the desert wood rat at a much smaller 12 inches in length and only around 4-5 ounces when fully mature.  Colors vary based on the species from gray to a dark brownish black to a reddish tan.  Most all the species however have white to gray under bellies.  Bushy-tailed wood rats have a chinchilla like furry tail, hints their name.  On first sight, many people do not realize that these creatures are related to the commonly thought of rats seen in pet stores due to their furry appearance and often seemingly oversized ears.

Wood rats are commonly known as a pack rat due to their habit of collecting items and packing it back to their nest.  Items are added to the nest to increase stability in the structure.  Pack rats are known to have a curious nature which leads them to drop one item in trade for another as they move throughout their environment.  They seem to be particularly fond of shiny objects and may take coins, jewelry and metal hardware leaving behind rocks, wood chips or other miscellaneous objects behind in their place.  Wood rats have a preference of rough terrain and build their nests in a variety of locations.  Nests are typically utilized by multiple generations and due to their solitary nature, pack rats may reuse abandoned nesting sites by remodeling the structure of the existing nest. Dens may be created in holes around cholla cactus allowing cactus spines to act as added protection against predators.  Natural predators include owls, hawks, coyotes and larger species of snakes.

On occasion, wood rats end up nesting within a structure or home, causing concern due to rodents’ habits of chewing wires and the potential for parasites or disease to be spread to the occupants.  Wood rats can be controlled and/or eradicated using various techniques.  Depending on the pest or wildlife control professional that you contact to assist in resolving the situation, their recommendations may include but are not limited to lethal mechanical trapping (snap traps), humane live trapping (cage traps) or baiting methods.  Exclusion repairs are typically the best means of keeping additional pack rats from entering a home or structure in the future.