Wood Rat Control

Wood Rat Control

In the desert southwest, we have a variety of mice and rats that can become a nuisance, and cause considerable damage to structures and  vehicle wiring.  Rodents also make themselves right a home in barns, chicken coops, or other areas where livestock eat, or where livestock feed is stored.  We offer several solutions to assist you in gaining the upper hand, whether you live on a ranch, in a residential neighborhood, or you have commercial property.  All of the methods we use are poison free and are non-toxic.  We can provide one-time trapping services, or in areas where rodents are always a risk, provide more permanent solutions that are safe around children and other animals.

We take pride in tailoring the rodent issue you’re having to your specific problem.  We use the most humane methods available, as defined by the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Desert Woodrat or Desert Pack Rat: Neotoma lepida

Desert Woodrat. Neotoma lepida. Photo Credit: Jules Jardinier

The native species of rat most commonly seen in our desert region is the Desert Woodrat, also known as the Desert Pack Rat, Neotoma lepida.   Desert wood rats occur from sea level to 8500 feet in elevation.  They reach up to 15 inches in length, and weigh nearly a pound. Desert wood rats have long whiskers, ears nearly as long as the rear feet, and a narrow snout. They also have a furry-but not bushy tail. They may vary in color from grey to more a rusty-brown, and always have a white underside.  Desert wood rats breed in the spring and summer, and give birth to litters of up to five young after a gestation period of 30 to 36 days.  They may have several litters per year.  Wood rats are active year-round.  

High Desert Wildlife Control does not use poisons at any time, to control wood rat infestations.  

Poisons used for rodents, called “rodenticides,” often contain anticoagulant poisons, (anticoagulants keep blood from clotting, which causes internal hemorrhaging.)  This is not quick or humane. Rodents must  eat these poisons several times, and often die away from their dens as they seek water, where other animals often consume them.    Secondary poisoning of non-target wildlife (and also pets)  is an extremely serious problem in California.  Live trapping removes problem rats at the source, can be more effective than using poisons, is humane, and doesn’t contribute to the poisoning of our wildlife. 

Wood rats aren’t normally an invasive species, as long as their habitats remain undisturbed.  In the wild, they create elaborate homes called midden, normally at the bases of Joshua trees, cactus, or shrubs, but will sometimes nest in the upper branches of Mojave yucca and cholla cactus, as well as in Joshua trees.

Because of loss of habitat (due to building, roads, homes, and other disturbances) wood rats often take up home near, under or in residences, barns, sheds, under the hoods and in the exhaust systems of vehicles, or near areas where livestock are kept.   Wood rats adapt very well, and find that life among humans is an easier life than foraging in the desert.  Water is often available, as is pet food, grain from livestock feeding, gardens, seasonal plants, along with numerous dry, dark, non-windy places to nest.

Desert Woodrat Den. ©High Desert Wildlife Trapping. All Rights Reserved

Pack rats are usually nocturnal (active at night) but may also be active during daylight.  Natural predators to pack rats include coyotes, snakes, bobcats, foxes, owls, and hawks.

In the wild, their normal diet consists of seeds and seed pods, young plants and shoots,  creosote bushes, and tree bark. Prickly pear cactus is heavily relied upon for water.  If infesting a home, ranch, farm, or business, they’ll eat almost anything, often causing severe damage.  Vehicle wiring, lumber, pet and animal feed, trees, gardens, insulation,  irrigation systems, and countless other items are all desirable to a wood rat for forage or nesting.

Unfortunately, Desert Wood rats also carry parasites, and can transmit diseases, including plague. Of particular importance is the “Kissing Bug,” also known as the “Assassin Bug”or “Conenose bug.”  In our region, Triatoma protracta is the subspecies most often encountered.  Like fleas, these insects live in the burrows of rodents, and use them for a blood meal.  Please see our page on Kissing Bugs (coming soon) for important information. Some people who are bitten by a “Kissing Bug” experience an anaphylactic (near fatal or fatal allergic reaction,) including the author of this article.

If you are having a problem with pack rats damaging your property, we can help!  Contact us at 760.961.5980.

Sick, dying or dead wood rats should never be handled, and a professional should be contacted immediately.