Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Night of the Woodrat

Looks like fall is coming early this year. Typically, it's October before Mr. Woodrat appears. That brings to mind a funny story I call "The Night of the Woodrat." The second year we had our float cabin, I was able to go up the lake by myself the week before Thanksgiving. Even though I grew up in Los Angeles, I had lots of experience outdoors and camping. I was confident my solo trip would be a piece of cake.

Sleeping upstairs in the cabin's loft is usually peaceful and quiet. I built a fire in the wood stove to keep warm and turned in early to read. Before long, I drifted off, only to be roused by a racket downstairs. I keep a flashlight next to the bed, so I grabbed it and looked over the railing. At first there was no sound and nothing in sight. Then the quick scurrying of little feet caught my attention and a small furry critter scampered out of the darkness to appear at the foot of the stairs. There, as bold as could be, staring up at me was a woodrat (packrat). His large dark eyes and perky round ears were inquisitive, and his bushy tail twitched up and down with excitement. Now I must admit, as comfortable as I am with nature, sleeping in confined quarters with a small rodent isn't high on my bucket list.

My first thought was, how in the world did he get indoors. My second thought was, how in the world was I going to get him back outdoors. I cautiously climbed downstairs and opened the sliding glass door. Of course, he didn't cooperate and exit on cue. I tried chasing him, but he avoided going anywhere near the door. Then I thought I was so smart. I piled firewood into a barricade to encourage him out on his next circuit of the living room wall. I tiptoed behind and chased him back towards the open door. But he ran right on past and over the wall like an Olympic high jumper. By now I was pretty tired and exasperated. On his next pass from the kitchen back to living room, he stopped at the wood stove, dove underneath and up inside. That did it. I left the sliding door open and went back to bed. I figured if he wanted to be indoors that bad, I could share my abode for one night.

The next morning there was no sign of Mr. Woodrat. I'm sure he wasn't a dream (nightmare?) because the sliding glass door was open, it was a chilly 10 degrees inside, and there was firewood stacked in a tall pile leading to the doorway.

Each year, Mr. (or Mrs.) Woodrat has returned when there gets to be a chill in the evening air and the leaves begin to turn. He hasn't come inside again, but loves to harvest my flowers and vegetables for his winter stores. He also likes to set up house in our wood shed. Neither of these activities are appreciated, so we use our Havahart live trap to catch and relocate our occasional bushy-tailed visitors. Last year there were three. So far this year, the count is one. Hopefully it will be the last. -- Margy


  1. Nice tail oops tale of your little friend. I don't have a big problem with them I just hate being surprised by opening a cupboard door and they're sitting there looking at you!
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Just an update - the woodrat count is up to two. Both have been relocated to the same spot along the lake shore in hopes they can reunite. - Margy

  3. I can't believe it. Every night we put out a trap we catch another woodrat. Last year the total count was three. So far this year we've caught six. Will it ever stop? Maybe they are running as fast as they can the two klicks around the lake shore to get back just for another taste of peanut butter. - Margy

  4. Up until the day we left for the States, we were trapping a woodrat every night we were at the cabin. The count was up to ten, but we know there was at least one more because while #10 was rattling his cage, someone still came on deck and "harvested" some of my flowers and left them out to dry. We pulled in our gangplank to shore when we left, but they still have full access to the shed on shore where they have been trying to build a nest.

    What surprises me is that woodrats are supposed to be solitary and territorial. How can so many be in the same place at the same time. Does anyone else have any woodrat experience that can shed some light on our overrun status? - Margy

  5. ooohhhhh goodness too funny but not!!!!