A source for information on rats
Pack Rat Neotoma spp.
Medium-sized rodents whose bodies measure about eight inches, with the tail
slightly shorter than the head and body combined.
Varies in color from cinnamon to brown, gray, yellowish gray, or creamy buff,
depending on the species and specimen. The underside is clearly more lightly colored than the upper part of the
Pack rats get their name from their habit of taking small, bright or shiny
objects and hoarding them in their nests. They will take beer can tabs, bottle caps, bits of foil, coins, and
jewelry just to name a few items. Often, sticks or nuts the rat was carrying at the time are left at the site
where the shiny object was acquired, thus the additional nickname of "trade" rat. They are mainly nocturnal
creatures but may be active during the day. After establishing themselves within a building, pack rats will
feed on foods within the building but will continue to forage for most of their food outdoors.
Pack rats occur throughout the United States except in a few states around the
Great Lakes and the northeastern United States. These rats tend to be more of a problem in buildings in the
western part of the country. Most species of pack rats are excellent climbers and some are actually
semi-arboreal in preference -- meaning they will nest in trees. Others are ground nesters and will dig burrows
in which to live. Numerous rats may occupy a single den.
The best ways to avoid invasions of pack rats are to (1) provide as little
harborage as possible that might attract rodents, and (2) seal as many holes and cracks in the outside of the
home through which rats might enter. Follow these recommendations to help prevent pack rats from seeking the
food and shelter provided by your home:
- Keep firewood stored as far from the home as possible and store it off the ground. During the winter,
store only enough wood next to the house to burn every couple of days.
- If possible, remove any piles of debris, stones, bricks, etc. If these are near the foundation of the
home they serve as harborages to attract rodents. Once there, it is an easy step for rodents to enter the
- Seal any hole or crack larger than 1/4 of an inch. Large holes or cracks should be stuffed with steel
wool or wire mesh before sealing with caulk or foam, otherwise rodents could chew through to enter.
- Install a good, thick weather-stripping on the bottom of all doors to prevent rodents from entering.
The garage door may prove difficult to seal completely, so the door from the garage to the house must be
- Remember, our service includes coverage of commensal rats and mice, and much of the service
provided during the colder months is to inspect for signs of rodents and to maintain preventive control
Although not a significant health threat, pack rats are associated with a number of diseases that infect
humans, including plague and lyme disease. For this reason, dead rats should never be handled using bare hands,
and care should be taken to avoid their ectoparasites, especially fleas and ticks.