These are native rodents in the U.S. and occur throughout much of the country with the exception of the New England states and some areas around the Great Lakes.
While these are primarily outdoor rodents, they have become more prevalent indoors in structures in the southwest states. Once inside they have the same tendencies for gnawing and property destruction as do the more common structural rats and mice. It derives its name of pack rat from its desire to collect many different kinds of small objects and store them in its “middens”, along with food supplies and other materials. Small shiny objects are particularly attractive to wood rats, who may leave what they previously were carrying in exchange for the new item (“trade” rat). Adults live from less than a year up to 3 years in a natural setting. There may be as many as 5 litters per year with an average of only 2 young per litter. Outdoors wood rats commonly construct their homes of large piles of sticks, and insects associated with them include Assassin Bugs, along with the usual fleas, ticks, or lice. Disease associations with wood rats include Chagas Disease, Lyme Disease, plague, and tularemia, and most recently a close relative of Hantavirus called “Arenavirus”.
Adults are about the same size as Norway Rats – up to 19 inches nose to tip of tail – but are distinguished by the large ears, large black eyes, and much longer, softer looking fur. They also have furry tails, and body colors range from gray to brown to black on upper areas, with lighter colored bellies and feet, ranging from light brown to white. Nests in outdoor areas are typically round-topped or conical, from 3 to 5 feet in diameter, and they are built from sticks or any other materials the rodent can gather to use. They may be built up in vegetation, in patches of vegetation, in crevices, or next to large stumps or rocks.
Characteristicts Important to Control:
Trapping near nests discovered outdoors is successful, with live or kill traps baited with nuts or dried fruit. Toxic bait use is limited, with only a few choices properly labeled for this use. Diligent removal of nests may cause the animals to relocate.