Tuesday, February 22, 2011


How much wood would a wood rat rat if a wood rat could rat wood?

This winter we had an unwanted guest. A Bushy Tailed Wood Rat.
He made himself quite at home in one of our storage rooms.

We had been having a mouse problem all year and it was so common place to have a mouse in the traps it sometimes was a twice daily chore to empty them. Yuk.

Then, suddenly, there was a remarkable decrease in mouse traffic. We optimistically thought it was something we did to keep the mice out, although we had never really pinpointed where they were getting in in the first place. I did see one, last summer, dash in the open door. There were those vents along the roof... Perhaps they were just breeding and thriving in the ecosystem of the building?

Well, after a two or three day period of silence in the "snappy traps" there was a loud commotion in the storage room. Giant chewing noises. Things crashing
as they fell from high places. Mysterious sounds uncannily similar to cooking pots being banged together.
All very odd.

Then the "Shrines" began to appear. Little piles of fir bough tips, paper scraps and tin foil. In the middle of the floor, on top of tables, inside printers. Some of them contained more complex elements like tin cans, bits of yarn, fir boughs, pink insulation and color printer cartridges. All artfully arranged in a most pleasing exhibit and liberally sprinkled with droppings. What sort of creature were we dealing with?
I began flinging the store room door open when I would hear a commotion, brandishing a high powered flashlight. I eventually managed to see the creature that was now living with us.

On the third day I riveted it with my high beam flashlight. What I saw staring back at me was cuter than a guinea pig and completely unafraid. The Bushy Tailed Wood Rat now knew that I would never get across the room of precariously stacked tables, nick knacks, cabinets, chairs, building supplies and computer gear in time to apprehend him.
I spent a week figuring out how in the world the BTWR got in in the first place and in the process of looking behind a pile of potting materials I found the Interstate Highway of holes in the side of the building.

I'm surprised that many, many more rodents didn't take advantage of the hospitable 3" hole drilled by "someone"(relatives not to be mentioned) in the exterior wall.

Apparently BTWR would not suffer lowly mice using his front door and so had put an end to the free trafficking of mice on micey business through the building. So no more mice in the traps.

BTWR had set himself up in a lovely home, he had furnished himself, in the very desirable high-rise Basket Hilton in the back corner of the room.

For three more weeks I would randomly remove the patch over the hole and try to chase the BTWR outside. He eventually got so used to it that he would not leave the warmth of his Basket Penthouse unless I threw something in his direction. Then he would slowly climb out of his warm cocoon, give a little stretch, and with an eye roll, trundle down behind the back of the filing cabinet which sat directly and immovably in front of the hole.

The first few times I victoriously ran outside and plugged the hole. Only to see his big brown eyes in my spotlight again the next day. It turned out he was going into the wall, NOT out the hole.

Since it was not the BTWR's fault that we had invited him in from the fridgid forest through the 3" hole, I didn't feel so good about just setting a rat trap and executing him. It was, technically, our fault he was there in the first place. He was just innocently taking advantage of a good deal.

My machinations for getting the BTWR out of the building became so futile I eventually kept the patch over the hole for several days hoping it would inspire him to rush out for a drink of water when I took the cover off the hole.
It instead inspired him to chew an exit hole for himself at the top of the wall near an old exhaust fan. He got out fine, but the hole was too high up the wall to get back in. Hooray!

He had outsmarted himself. I was finally rid of him. Or so I thought until I heard a rustling in another building. And what did I see? A fresh "Shrine" and a bushy gray tail on it's way deep into the attic.


  1. Wow I am impressed. I didn't know rats would keep out mice. I really, really hate mice. I really,really hate mouse poop. Actually, I guess I should say I find mice cute and don't mind them as long as they are outside. Just don't come into my house or I will want to kill the furry lil turd spreaders. :)

  2. I feel the same way about mice. I hate the smell. I hate the way they jump out of places when you least expect them... But they are darn cute in the right place.
    When we first moved up here, there hadn't been a human around for over a year. Several generations of mice had never seen a person before. They would pop their little heads out of boxes and just stare at me, like "what in the world could that be?"
    I let mice be in the wild. I have no grudge to hold, they're just trying to get by, but I draw the line at sanitation. I really hate it when they get into my pantry and chew little holes in every single thing without even eating anything.


Thank you for commenting, we love hearing from you! If you have trouble leaving a comment please check if your computer is set to reject pop-up windows or third party cookies. For some reason these will keep you from being able to post.