ratpicSelect a Subtopic
Basic Behavior & Biology
Different From Other Rats
Problems Created By Pack Rats
It Is Not Natural!
Why So Many Rats?
The Solution
#1 Consideration – The Nest!
Doing It Right – Step by Step
The Wrong Way

Be sure to check out the Gallery page to see hundreds of pack rat related photos!


Basic Behavior & Biology

• Properly called: White-throated Wood Rat (Neotoma albigula)

• Nocturnal; common in the southwest desert.

• Tail is thick, round, blunt-ended, covered with short hairs and is shorter than the body. Ears are large and almost naked. Fur is soft and dense.

• Coloration is dark gray-brown on top with a lighter underbelly.

• Size: up to fifteen inches & eight ounces.

• Adult pack rats are solitary. 1 adult per nest.

• Great diggers and adept climbers.

• Primary foods are cactus and mesquite beans, but will eat just about anything.

• Obtain moisture from what they eat and therefore do not need free-standing water.

• Mature in 6 to 8 weeks. Life expectancy: 2 years.

• Gives birth to 2-3 young every 6 to 8 weeks.

• Must have shelter! Cannot survive when exposed to extreme heat, cold or direct sunlight.

• Will reuse existing empty nests before starting new nests.

• Potential nesting area is any sheltered area including: cacti, bushes, trees, rock crevices, pool heaters, spas, car engines, ceiling voids, gas grills, under sheds, and wood piles.

• Will fortify the nest with additional material including cactus, rocks, sticks, dog droppings and just about anything else they can find.

• The presence of additional fortification material is the telltale sign that distinguishes a pack rat nest from that of a squirrel or other rodent.


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Different From Other Rats

Pack rats are very different from the urban rats most people think of...

• Urban Rats - 2 common types: Norway/Sewer Rat (Rattus norvegicus) & Roof Rat (Rattus rattus)
• Pack Rat - White-throated Wood Rat (Neotoma albigula)

• Urban Rats - European Rats - came over with the emigrants
• Pack Rat - Native American Rats have been here for tens of thousands of years

• Urban Rats - commensal rodents - derives from the Latin cum mensa, meaning "sharing a table". Basically means they have adapted over thousands of years to living off of our garbage. Primarily found in urban environments.
• Pack Rat - true wild rodents, live near and with other wildlife.

• Urban Rats - have large litters of 6-12 babies
• Pack Rat - have small litters, usually 2 babies. Occasionally 3.

• Urban Rats - live in social groups or colonies of many adult rats
• Pack Rat - Adults are solitary.

• Urban Rats - very cautious. Can be aggressive if threatened.
• Pack Rat - very curious. Passive, will only bite if physically provoked.

• Urban Rats - very flexible opportunists. Can burrow and live in trees. Do not fortify their nests.
• Pack Rat - very nest dependent. Will build and use the same elaborate, well fortified nests generation after generation.

• Urban Rats - Few predators.
• Pack Rat - Many predators. Pack rats are an important link in the natural food chain for snakes, owls, bob cats, ring tail cats, foxes, coyotes and even road runners.

• Urban Rats - Many licensed poisons are specifically made for Norway & Roof Rats in urban environments where there is a low risk of secondary poisoning. Can be effective in controlling large populations when used with prevention techniques like limiting food supply by cleaning up garbage.
• Pack Rat - There is no poison specifically made and licensed for pack rats. Risk of secondary poisoning to other wildlife is high. Poison is usually ineffective and overtime can make problem worse.


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Problems Created By Pack Rats

Pack rats and people don’t go well together......

• Nests harbor blood sucking kissing bugs (conenose bugs), fleas, lice, brown spiders, scorpions, and mice.

• Damaged and destroyed landscaping from nesting and feeding.

• Offspring seek nesting opportunities in cars, pool equipment and even get in to the ceiling voids of homes.

• Avid chewers, often chewing on and through wires in cars, attics, spas and pool heaters.

Urine and fecal material become abundant.

• Nests attract snakes, skunks, foxes, coyotes and bobcats.

• Nests are vectors for disease including:

  • Allergic reactions from kissing bugs
  • Hantavirus from mice
  • Plague from fleas
  • Infections from Brown Spider bites

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It Is Not Natural!


Compare the difference - natural desert versus near a home. If you were a rat, where would you want to live?......

In a balanced environment, pack rat populations are an important and beneficial part of nature.
Unfortunately even with “natural” landscaping around homes the balance of nature is changed and pack rat populations can increase to unnatural levels due to:

More Harborage (places to build safe nests)
• Rain run-off from roofs, patios, driveways and streets increases available vegetation.
• Non-native plants provide nesting opportunities
• Irrigation leads to increased plant growth
• Non-natural nesting opportunities - pool equipment, AC's, cars, attics, sheds
• Large decorative rocks & rock retaining walls provide ideal harborage
• Poison bait boxes are a favorite place to hide and even build a nest in

Fewer Predators
• Many predators prefer to avoid homes, pack rats do not.
• Rattle snakes are often killed or removed
• Poison baits kill many raptors (owls & hawks) through secondary poisoning
• Bobcats choose easy to catch birds at bird feeders vs. pack rats

Enhanced Food Supply
• Irrigated plants are more attractive especially during dry spells (pack rats get moisture from what they eat, they don't need to drink water)
• Many decorative cacti species are more attractive than natural cacti (rats eat cactus)
Bird seed and pet foods are a favorite

Homes are attractive
Pack rats are naturally very curious and will investigate anything new in their environment. Our homes are especially attractive:
• Different smells. At night rats often sit by doors & windows smelling our homes.
• Fabric and stuffing from patio furniture and even grill covers makes excellent nesting material.
Small toys and ball are pack rat favorites to collect. So are dog droppings.


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Why So Many Rats?


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The Soulution

The solution to pack rats issues is creating and maintaining a pack rat-free “buffer zone” around your home. Eliminate existing nests and nesting opportunities within a 40-300 foot buffer zone around the home.

The ideal size of the buffer zone depends on:

• Surrounding pack rat population

• Vegetation type & density

• If vehicles are being parked outside

• Known allergies to kissing bugs

• Terrain – hilly, flat, rocky, sandy

If you live in our primary service area Mr. Pack Rat will provide a free, no obligation inspection and consultation on creating a buffer zone.


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#1 Consideration — The Nest!

The key to eliminating and preventing pack rats is addressing their use and need for shelter.

Eliminating only the rats creates vacant nests soon to be reoccupied in an unending cycle until the nests are located and properly removed.

Potential nesting sites also need to be addressed. Pack rats are opportunists and will take advantage of any sheltered area. See the Prevention page for more information

A pack rat needs a nest to survive. If you live in an area where there are pack rats:
• You cannot control the food supply - the desert provides all they need
• You cannot control how many rats are on neighboring properties
• You can only control nest and nesting opportunities on your property!


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Doing It Right — Step By Step

1. Inspection
Determine the buffer zone. Locate existing nests and potential nesting sites in the area.

Experience makes a difference. If you live in our service area Mr. Pack Rat will provide a free, no obligation inspection and consultation with a fixed price quote.

2. Live Trap at the nest sites
The resident rat needs to be caught and removed before taking out a nest. A displaced pack rat must have shelter and may seek a car or your house for its new home.

Mr. Pack Rat is licensed by AZ Game & Fish to live trap pack rats and other nuisance animals – landscapers and typical exterminators are not.

3. Treat the Nest as needed
Once the resident pack rat is removed, parasites and other pests maybe living in the nest. These pests can move outwards if the nest is not promptly treated.

Mr. Pack Rat is also licensed and certified by the AZ Structural Pest Control Commission to apply pesticides. Mr. Pack Rat uses only natural materials to treat nests.

4. Remove the Nest
Within 24 hours of removing the resident rat the nest needs to be completely removed before another rat moves in. All debris should be removed. Any hidden underground chambers need to be located and filled in.

Again, experience counts! Mr. Pack Rat knows how to completely remove a nest in a neat, professional manner.

5. Change the Environment at the Nest Site
Rats like to go where rats have been and even after catching the resident rat and removing the nest, other rats may try to rebuild in the same area. Proper thinning and trimming needs to be done in the immediate area to prevent new nesting. In some cases physical exclusion (rat-proofing) is needed to keep rats out.

Mr. Pack Rat knows the proper prevention techniques and provides a long term guarantee the nest location will remain rat-free!

6. Prevention
Pack rats need a sheltered area to feel secure enough to start a new nest. Deny them protection and they will move on. Refer to the Prevention page for details. Homeowners in high risk areas may also want to consider preventative “rat-proofing” to protect their home, garage, pool heater, spa and other buildings before rats move in.

Mr. Pack Rat provides prevention recommendations with each free inspection and also offers Deter-Scape, a natural landscaping nuisance wildlife prevention service.


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The Wrong Way

Poison bait and random trapping are ineffective because they treat only the symptoms (rats) and do not address the source of the problem (nests).

Poison is also dangerous and may kill the very predators that naturally control the pack rat population. Again, rats like to go where rats have been and when poison kills a rat, a vacant home is left behind to be quickly occupied by another. The cycle will repeat until the actual nest is removed.

See the Problems with Poison page for full details.



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