|John Deere pack rat nest- Click to enlarge|
While I pondered the complicated fuel system of a tractor based on my half-vast experience, the mechanic then answered the phone. He reported excitedly, "You should have seen the packrat nest under the hood! It was so big that we took a picture of it. The rat had chewed the line out of the fuel tank."
packrat commonly refers to our wood rats in the genus Neotoma. There are eight different Neotoma species in North America. Although they are the size of the Norway rat, model for many cartoons and comic strips, they lack the sharply pointed nose and scaly tail. They have lovable big eyes, soft, fine fur, and large ears with whitish feet and bellies.
Although they enjoy building nests under our deck, in our barn, or even our tractor), they usually eat outside unless food is available in the structure. In our case, it had been chewing into bags of corn we were using to trap feral hogs. Linda Ellis has had her car rewired multiple times due to her rats taste for wiring insulation.
They are also known as trade rats as they not only bring colored or bright shiny objects to their nest, but they will at times drop one object to substitute it for another found along the way, effectively trading them. Ours seem particularly enamored of orange electric cords, small screw drivers, alligator battery clips and anything attached to a piece of equipment valued at over $30. The good news is when I lose something, the rat gets the blame.
This wasn't the first visit rats have made to our tractor. Some years back, I put bright red rectangles of bar bait out in the back corners of the barn to kill the rats. A few weeks later my neighbor borrowed the tractor and kindly checked the oil. He found four strips of bar bait neatly lined up on the top of the radiator where a rat had deposited them, leaving tiny foot prints in the dust.
When we bought our creek house it needed some repairs. The carpenter found a packrat nest in the eves which included 12 stick ball point pens, a girl's school picture and a plastic handled paring knife. I don't know what it had in mind but felt we should report it to the sheriff as some kind of pervert. Ever since, Barb sleeps with a gun.
icwdm.org shows range maps and discusses control measures.
Thanks to Larson Farm and Lawn for the picture.