Friday, November 16, 2007

Pesky Bushy Tailed Woodrats

Something started invading my floating garden and was "harvesting" what was left of my crops. It was a strange sight. There were small piles, all categorized by crop. Parsley was piled with parsley, spinach with spinach, carrot tops were with carrot tops, and strawberries with strawberries. Such a neat farmer. But what could it be? Yes, I did leave the garden tethered to our transition float one night, but after that it was in its floating position along the breakwater. No animals were evident in the garden and I wasn't sure one could live under the float since it rides pretty low in the water. Yet, several nights a week more piles would appear.

I went to Rainbow Valley Pet & Farm Supplies on the corner of Manson and Duncan Streets. The proprietor listened to my description and thought it might be a weasel. I've neven seen one around the cabin, but it was possible. My vote was on a Woodrat (Packrat) or squirrel, both of which I've seen around our place. He recommended a weasel trap, but it was pretty big. I decided on the Havahart 0745 live trap for squirrels, rats and chipmunks.

The first night Wayne loaded it up with peanut butter as bait. It was sprung the next morning, but nothing was inside. The second night we had success.

A Bushy Tailed Woodrat (Packrat) was nervously resting inside our trap. The Woodrat is the only rat native to Canada. It eats leaves and seeds (and garden veggies). They live on cliffs (we've got a big one of those) and in abandoned buildings (our shed isn't abandoned but it's pretty quiet). A Woodrat is a large, gentle, squirrel-like rodent with soft grey and light brown fur. Its large eyes and ears, and bushy tail make it easy to identify. Yep, that's a Woodrat in my cage. The descriptions don't mention anything about swimming, but this one must have been crossing between our transition float and the garden to return with tasty morsels to store in its midden for the winter. At least there was evidence of this on our walkway to shore one morning. In addition to storing food, Woodrats are notorious for taking and hiding bright shiny objects.

Wayne took him (or her) for a ride in our tin boat to a distant cliff to start a new life. The next night we put the cage on our front deck. There was evidence (droppings and nibbled flowers) that someone was hanging out there as well. Just as the sky began to lighten, we heard the cage rattling.

Wayne went downstairs to find another Woodrat waiting for relocation. He took the second Woodrat to the same spot, hopefully facilitating a reunion since they were possibly a mother/daughter pair sharing the same territory. Now, if I can avoid the Juncos next spring, maybe my garden will have a chance. -- Margy

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We welcome your comments and questions. - Wayne and Margy