Medium-sized rodents whose bodies measure about eight inches, with the tail slightly shorter than the head and body combined.
Varies in color from cinnamon to brown, gray, yellowish gray, or creamy buff, depending on the species and specimen. The underside is clearly more lightly colored than the upper part of the rat.
Pack rats get their name from their habit of taking small, bright or shiny objects and hoarding them in their nests. They will take beer can tabs, bottle caps, bits of foil, coins, and jewelry just to name a few items. Often, sticks or nuts the rat was carrying at the time are left at the site where the shiny object was acquired, thus the additional nickname of “trade” rat. They are mainly nocturnal creatures but may be active during the day. After establishing themselves within a building, pack rats will feed on foods within the building but will continue to forage for most of their food outdoors
Pack rats occur throughout the United States except in a few states around the Great Lakes and the northeastern United States. These rats tend to be more of a problem in buildings in the western part of the country. Most species of pack rats are excellent climbers and some are actually semi-arboreal in preference — meaning they will nest in trees. Others are ground nesters and will dig burrows in which to live. Numerous rats may occupy a single den.
The best ways to avoid invasions of pack rats are to (1) provide as little harborage as possible that might attract rodents, and (2) seal as many holes and cracks in the outside of the home through which rats might enter. Follow these recommendations to help prevent pack rats from seeking the food and shelter provided by your home:
Although not a significant health threat, pack rats are associated with a number of diseases that infect humans, including plague and lyme disease. For this reason, dead rats should never be handled using bare hands, and care should be taken to avoid their ectoparasites, especially fleas and ticks.