Friday, December 11, 2015

our pack rat

We have had roof leaking issues this late summer and fall. When we came back from our vacation to Minnesota in August, there were two shadows of wet areas to our living room ceiling from the rain we received while away. Since there was never a problem until after we had our roof replaced last summer, we called the roofer to fix the problem. It took him a while; first one thing and then another didn't work. Finally he had someone come and replace some shingles at the place where he thought the water was coming in. Since then we haven't had problems - fingers crossed. 

When we initially discovered this problem, we placed buckets under the drips and Terry went into the attic to investigate where the water was coming from. While he was up there he pulled the wet installation away from the drywall. The water leaked through the drywall seams. The picture below was from the last time this happened. That bubbled area of texture has fallen off and has yet to be fixed. I'd like to scrape the whole ceiling free of popcorn and start fresh!

The evening of our last leak, Terry went into the attic again to search for additional water trails (this was before new shingles). He's waving goodbye because we were afraid we would never see each other again. Ever since he had pulled the insulation away from the drywall, every night we'd hear some kind of creature galavanting around our attic! We'd hear it when he'd walk, run, or skip across the bare drywall. I heard it sometimes in the afternoon while the kids were in quiet time and it was, well, quiet, in the house. But more often than that, we'd hear it in the evenings, usually around 9:30pm. In addition, I had discovered while searching for something in our loft, large bits of rodent poop. I swept them up and told Terry I thought they were far too big for just a mouse. Plus something was eating the bird food and even dug into the seamed area between the garage stairs and kitchen door. There was a little pile of dirt debris right outside our kitchen! Clearly, something was up.

There he goes! We had tried all sorts of mouse traps and finally mouse poison. The trap in the attic was never touched, but all the traps in the garage would be picked clean in the morning but had no dead mouse in them except occasionally a tiny field mouse would wander in through the gap at the bottom of our garage door and be caught. But night after night most traps would be empty of peanut butter and dead mice. We figured we had a sly mouse on our hands and therefore bought two or three bags of mouse poison and set them about the garage. The one we placed in the garage loft was eaten into the following day and we waited for the inevitable dead mouse to show up. The next day the entire bag of poison was gone, along with the other one/s throughout the garage. What kind of creature eats entire packets of poison?!!

On the day that we went hiking in mid-November, we were greeted with a surprise upon our arrival back home. I was one of the first to get into the house and was yelling behind me for Ezra to hurry up and come inside because it was nap time. He wasn't coming so I went back outside to get him.  Halfway down the garage stairs I saw Snap, just to the side of the stairs, with a large rodent in his mouse. Samuel and Ezra were just standing there next to him watching. I yelled out, "RAT! RAT! RAT!" and Terry ran to get a shovel. When I yelled out, Snap dropped the rat and went inside like he was disinterested. I could see the rat was still moving and was horrified it would get away. I ran back into the house to get Snap and drag him back to finish his job. By the time I got back out there, Terry had broken the rat's neck with a flat edged shovel! He was worried he had decapitated him and that the red color around him was blood. It wasn't. It was only red dirt from the shovel.

I was freaking out; yelling and exclaiming and asking questions and jumping around. We all were. This thing was massive, just enormous, at least a foot long from snout to tail end. His body alone had to be at least nine inches. Terry scooped him up and we went outside into the light to get a better look. I had yelled "rat" when I saw it in Snap's mouth, but then when I saw his furry tail and big mouse-like ears, I was in doubt as to what in the world this thing was. Rats were supposed to have nasty naked tails as far as I knew. And he looked so soft and kind of cuddly that I felt bad. He really almost looked like an escaped pet, not like a nasty rat. 

I was so pumped full of adrenaline that I couldn't settle or make dinner. I think we just had leftovers. I got on facebook and google and asked my friends for help in identifying this rat/mouse thing. I emailed friends and our county weed and pest guy. People guessed anything from a possum to a chinchilla. None of their ideas seemed right based off my internet research. The closest match I could find was a bushy-tailed woodrat, otherwise known as a pack rat. They key, as I had thought was his furry tail, large ears and eyes. 
He was 6.5 ounces. I had exaggerated his girth, thinking he was two pounds. Wanting a correct weight to identify him,  I dug him out of the garbage and weighed him properly. Adrenaline had enlarged him in my mind.

Several days later Terry found its nest and that pretty much decided it for us; he was a pack rat. From Wikipedia, "Pack rats are nest builders. They use plant material such as branches, twigs, sticks, and other available debris. Getting into everything from attics to car engines, stealing their ‘treasures’, damaging electrical wiring, and creating general noisy havoc can easily cause them to become a nuisance.[3] A peculiar characteristic is that if they find something they want, they will drop what they are currently carrying, for example a piece of cactus, and "trade" it for the new item. They are particularly fond of shiny objects. These two traits have inspired an anecdote about a man finding his dime replaced by two nickels. They can also be quite vocal and boisterous."

 So there you had it. Its description matches our creature. He was very boisterous in our attic. He used whatever material available to build his nest, which was insulation, and, the clincher in my mind, was a shiny candy wrapper I found in his nest. Terry had discovered two wires that had been bitten clean in half. Also, when I finally heard back from the weed and pest guy, he agreed with my assessment. I only wish we knew how he got into our attic...
Terry found his nest in the empty black area above that pinkish shelf on the leftmost side of his work bench in the back of the garage. 

I know you can't tell from this photo, but we could still see the imprint of the pack rat's body in his nest. So we held our breaths that night and didn't hear any scratching around in our attic, and to this day that holds true. We are just hoping he didn't have a family. I have been worried lately because whenever Snap is in the garage with me, he sniffs around the bottom area of the stairs. It could just be another mouse (we live on the edge of a field), so I'm just hoping our pack rat troubles are over. 

Snap dog is our hero. He got lots of love and snacks for several days after this incident. Turns out, even though we don't have a mouser cat, Snap is just as good as one. He has caught other small creatures before - mice and birds. Miniature Schnauzers are in the terrier family and were bred to hunt rats. Long live Snap dog!

No comments:

Post a Comment