Encounter with a pack rat: Big rodent roams remote camp 

I’ve stayed in all kinds of camps over the years – deer camps, turkey camps, trout camps – in cabins of varying degrees of rustic. As a result, I’ve seen my share of mice and had them tap-dancing on my head a time of two, notably in our now-sold camp near Boonville in the Adirondacks. We eventually tightened things up a bit to the point where a mouse was a relative rarity.

Along the way, the mice themselves have ranged from entertaining to relentless, in many cases forcing me to lay out a trapline that during the middle of the night sometimes sounded like a popcorn popper.

But when I trekked west to British Columbia in the fall on my mountain goat hunt, I encountered something a bit different: a bushy-tailed woodrat.

Commonly known as a pack rat out there, it is just that – a fairly big rodent, ranging from 11-18 inches in length. My first encounter had me thinking I just spotted a mouse on steroids as it danced across the cabin porch one night.

In a way I wasn’t too far off. The pack rat is the lone native rat found in Canada, and our guides were immediately aware of its presence; during the time the cabin was vacant it had made itself at home, spreading vegetation around and leaving some kind of musty smell that hit the other guys more than me.

I was more curious than anything, and the more I thought about it I was perfectly fine with sharing the cabin with one pack rat as opposed to a dozen mice. The pack rat made its rounds at night, but limited his route, it seemed, to parts of the kitchen as well as the loft. Didn’t bother me; maybe because I was totally exhausted from each day’s hunt.

It helped greatly that the pack rat is a solitary animal, so the chances of having your cabin overrun by the rodents are slim to none. That helps. I can see my attitude toward them changing dramatically if they were present in the same numbers as common field mice.

I wondered, though, about all the plant life and green leaves spread around the cabin when we arrived. It seems the pack rat builds its house out of sticks and vegetation, and our cabin already had it ahead of the game.

But a rat is a rat, so it wasn’t lone before we decided to try to trap it with a couple traps that had likely been used during past visits. We weren’t successful, and I’m guessing the pack rat was perfectly comfortable through the long British Columbia winter right there in the remote cabin.

Categories: New York – Steve Piatt

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