Emerald Arts: Artworks, origami and custom made creatures by Emma Stronach.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Been chatting to the lovely Danceswithcolours on Etsy about bower birds and packrats, She'd not heard of the former and I had not heard of the latter, so here is what I learned on the wierd and awesome Pack Rats: Pack rats are prevalent in the deserts and highlands of western United States and northern Mexico. They also occur in parts of the eastern United States and Western Canada. Pack rats are a little smaller than a typical rat and have long, sometimes bushy tails.
Pack rats build complex nests of twigs, called "middens", often incorporating cactus. Nests are often built in small caves, but frequently also in the attics and walls of houses. Some Neotoma species, such as the White-throated Woodrat (N. albigula), use the base of a prickly pear or cholla cactus as the site for their home, utilizing the cactus' spines for protection from predators. Others, like the Desert Woodrat (N. lepida) will appropriate the burrows of ground squirrels or kangaroo rats and fortify the entrance with sticks and bits of spiny cactus stems fallen from Jumping and Teddy-bear Chollas.
In houses, pack rats are active nocturnally, searching for food and nest material. 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, leading to tales of rats swapping jewelry for a stone. They can also be quite vocal and boisterous, sounding at times as if a "family rift" is taking place.
Historically, houses in or near ghost towns were typically infested with pack rats.
Some species of pack rats were called "prairie flounders" by settlers. This might have occurred because the eyes of pack rats are set somewhat higher in the head than other rodents.
The term pack rat is also used in English as slang to refer to a person who collects miscellaneous items and has trouble getting rid of them (a compulsive hoarder) and more recently the term Digital Pack Rat has been used to describe the same problem with digital files.