Pack Rats

What Are They?

Several species of pack rats live in the United States. Their name comes from their tendency to pick up loose items they find. These pests have also been known to crawl around in parked cars, chewing on wires.

What Do They Look Like?

wood rat or pack rat
pack rat
pack rat
Pack Rat
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Pack rats are similar in appearance to standard rats, with long tails, large ears, and big black eyes. Their average size ranges from about 12 to 18 inches. They usually have gray fur on their backs and heads and lighter fur on their bellies and feet. Unlike traditional rats, pack rats often have hairy tails.

What Do They Eat?

Depending on the region in which they live, pack rat diets vary. Bushytailed woodrats in the western part of the United States eat mainly vegetation. Those found in the south tend to eat fruits and seeds. If it’s nearby, pack rats may also seek out human food easily accessible in garbage cans or left in gardens.

What Do Pack Rats Eat?

Pack Rat Diet

For a pest with such unique habits, the pack rat keeps a simple diet. These pests feed primarily on plants. Pack rats eat everything from roots and leaves to twigs. They sometimes supplement their meals with mushrooms, berries, and small arthropods. Inside homes, stored cereals or grains become part of the pack rat diet.

Where Do They Live?

These rodents adapt quickly to their environment, which allows them to survive in both dry, desert locations, and cool, mountainous areas.

Pack rats will often seek out warm, dry places like homes or barns, which protect them from the elements and predators. They are often found in attics, basements, and inside the walls of houses.

Do Pack Rats Infest Houses?

Pack rats often take shelter in quiet areas like seasonal cabins, barns, or sheds. However, the pests sometimes infest homes, especially those near fields or forests. Pack rats in houses den in places with little foot traffic, such as attics, basements, or underneath porches/decks.

Messy Nests

These rodents build massive nesting sites. Using sticks and twigs, as well as their urine and faeces, pack rats make these large piles of debris to protect their young and store the items they collect.

Pack rat nests in houses attract insects, which may lead to an additional pest infestation.  Foul-smelling pack rat nests in or under homes can grow to over 3 feet wide.

The pests damage buildings by chewing on wires, insulation, and siding.

What Problems Can They Cause?

Residents with pack rat problems may see damage to gardens or flowerbeds. Since roots make up a large percentage of what pack rats eat, their presence can stunt the growth of plants.

Pack rats in houses steal food and any objects they find interesting, particularly shiny items like coins or even silverware. In addition, the pests tear up furniture and mattresses. They use pieces of the soft padding to line their nests.

Parasites & Disease

These rodents carry lice, fleas, ticks, and mites. Food or water contaminated by a pack rat in the house can also transmit harmful bacteria and diseases to people.

How to Keep Them Out

To keep pack rats away, homeowners should know what attracts them to a home. Habitats that provide warmth, safety, food, and water are inviting to rodents. Some of the most effective pack rat repellent methods begin by limiting favourable pest conditions.

To deter pack rats, homeowners can reduce sources of food and shelter in the yard.

Start by:

  • Storing trash in pest-proof bins.
  • Cleaning up fallen fruit and spilled birdseed.
  • Limiting piles of lumber and other debris.
  • Keeping pools covered.

Residents may also find it helpful to inspect homes for cracks in the foundation. Pack rats are great climbers, so they might even enter a home through openings on the roof. Replacing missing or damaged fascia, soffits, and shingles can be a useful pack rat deterrent.

Norway Rat vs Roof Rat vs Pack Rats

Get Rid of an Infestation