[Tweeters] The Pack Rat

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Tue Nov 1 20:27:49 PDT 2016


All this talk about the Bushy-tailed Wood Rat got me remembering my only encounters with this creature.


It was in 1975 and I was working for the National Park Service at Stehekin in the North Cascades for the summer. One of my jobs was inventorying fire packs, to get ready in case of a forest. They were still using ol' Trapper Nelson backpacks which had heavy wooden frames with some canvas slung between them and unpadded shoulder straps and no waist strap. They were really a type of torture device compared to the nice soft packs we have available these days.


Well anyhoo, there I was in the pack room going though all these packs by myself. It was very quiet, when I heard a bit of a scrabble overhead, and looking up got a brief look at a big beautiful rat with a bushy tail snooping along the top of the wall framing. It quickly disappeared behind an attic wall. "Hey, that's a Pack Rat!" I realized.


I knew this from reading the 1970 edition of Earl Larrison's "Washington Mammals" another one of the great Trailside Series of books that Seattle Audubon has published over the years. Oh sure, there are more up to date books and all, but I like my ol' Larrison, it's one of my favorite books. It's so old I still have my childhood copy with my name and phone number inside the cover- from back in the day when Seattle telephone numbers all started with a two letter prefix. It is currently re-bound with duct tape.


One thing I remembered reading in the book was that if you slowly and sharply tap on the wall of the building, and a Pack Rat is in the building it will tap back (by slamming it's hind feet on what it's standing or sitting on. I tried it and it worked- the Pack Rat tapped back! We both played this little game for a little while, until I stopped getting a response.


Maybe the Pack Rat was giving me packing directions by code - which would be a mistake to follow because Pack Rat nests are a big fat mess. I've seen some in New Mexico.


So the next day of packing packs, I tried knocking again and got another response from the rat, but never again after that.


Jeff Gibson

knocking on wood in

Port Townsend Wa


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