May 012020

By Patty Wilber

Before we get into the woodrats, here are the results from last week’s “You be the Judge” in which Lucy, H, LT and Penny all did the same “ranch riding” type pattern.  Fifteen people, some horse folks and some not, judged via Survey Monkey.

Lucy got six first place votes but also four last place votes, giving her a total of 43 points.

H got four first place votes but only one last place vote and thus he edged out Lucy with 45.5 points!

H, who is not a minature horse, next to the new trailer, which, by the way, had a brake problem and is in the shop (under warranty).

LT, despite her lead change error, got three first places and also three last places, for third.

Penny also got two first place votes but, alas, was placed last six times (sorry Penny!) for fourth.

Thanks for playing!

Here is H’s winning go!


Woodrats are common in New Mexico and we have plenty on the 30 acres across the street. We also have had woodrats in our hay barn but we have never, until recently, have had woodrats in the truck!

The species seems to to be Neotoma leucodon, which according to Dr. Jennifer Frey, is the species that occurs east of the Rio Grande.  I got a kick out of that paper because Dr. Frey was a grad student at the University of New Mexico the same time I was there. She is now at New Mexico State University in the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology and also serves as the Curator of the NMSU Fish and Wildlife Museum.

Woodrats are also known as packrats and they make middens–normally in the wild, but also in cars and trucks!  And we have had them have a go at getting into the house crawl space, as well. 

Despite this annoyance, it turns out the middens are of great scientific interest because “In the arid regions of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, many pack rat middens have remained intact beyond the limit of the radiocarbon dating method (> 45 000 year).” They are a treasure trove of plant information dating back 10’s of thousands of years!

There is even a USGS midden database!

Well, neither the prospect of our truck becoming a paleontological treasure trove nor the fact that packrats are pretty cute (see this website), swayed us into middenizing the truck (which was usually parked by at the barn with the trailer attached).  We were fine with them living in the barn but when those rats a) chewed through the wiper fluid lines, b) decimated the liner for the hood, and c) packed stuff into the engine compartment that created a fire hazard, we were kinda done.

We tried a a sonic sound producer and Irish Spring (the soap) to deter them.  Neither worked.  Now we keep the hood up.

We also resorted to trapping them. We got two.

They are  solitary, except mothers with young, and have home ranges around 25 meters, so we cleared out the current inhabitants, BUT since nature abhors a vacuum, you can bet someone will try to sneak in and establish residency.

Bad idea, woodrats, as we will be continuing to trap, as well as keeping the hood up on the truck.

The rats were ahead in the woodrats vs. humans contest, but I think the result is tilted towards the humans, now.



  10 Responses to “Humans 2; Woodrats…”

  1. We have a pack rate that lives in our pantry and we see him almost daily. He has also been see sleeping in an upstairs bedroom on a cardboard box with our cat sleeping on the sofa along side. Some time ago we had a lot of what I thought were mic in the pantry and too out 8 with mouse traps. However now after seeing the big pack rate I am thinking they may have been babies and it is the mother who is left.
    Pack rats used to do a lot of damage to the cars with middens and eating wiring and one filled the air box with pinon nuts which got sucked into the motor.

    • Oh nice! Pinon nuts in the motor!

      • Heads had to come off the motor to get them all out.Couldn’t run engine and burn them out as they got stuck in the valves. Haven’t had any more problems since he/she moved into the house. Once after power washing the engine he came out and sat on top of the engine looking very wet and bedraggled.

  2. I have had issues with ground squirrels getting in the engine compartment of my P/U. Fire up the leaf blower, blow into the compartment and they will run for their lives!

  3. It took me a couple of generations to discourage them from the barn once they’d established themselves–now the traps go active at the first sign of them. I was willing to live in peace, but not once they started 1) chewing and 2) carpet-spiking everything with those cholla spikes!

    • We bought some hay from a neighbor and she had packrats in there–yes cholla spikes in my gloves every bale. Only my gloves though. Jim either that thicker gloves or better hand placement!

  4. We have managed to avoid them so far, gophers are the biggest pests at our place, along with crows who seem to take great delight on roosting on our roof with dead animals they manage to get …… ugh! Never seen that solution with keeping the hood up, we’ll have to give that a shot if we see any signs of them moving in.

    • We have a lot of crows and they used to leave dead bits in the horse water all the time, but they have stopped. We didn’t even trap them. LOL. We have had trouble with ground squirrels, as well. Oh boy!

  5. Patty,
    We tried all of that too. even pepperment. smell good but, alas it didn’t, doesn’t dont work!!. Just kept the hood up. Sandy

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