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Looks like it’s time to start packing up the pack rats

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This summer’s pack rat relocation campaign started on July 10, the earliest ever. Usually the little buggers wait until at least August before they move in and start taking over.

We knew it was time to get out the Havahart trap when we found insulation which should have been in the old farm truck lying underneath it.

My relocation effort didn’t really get serious until about four years ago. After I caught the twelfth pack rat my husband asked if I was sure I wasn’t catching the same rat over and over. He suggested I paint their toenails so I could tell one from the other.
He was joking, but it was worth a try. Have you ever put nail polish on a rat’s toes? It isn’t easy. After the second rat, I switched to spray, painting a splotch on their tails.

People ask why I just don’t kill the furry pests. Pack rats are larger than squirrels, with fluffy unratlike tails, cute little ears, long whiskers and sweet black eyes. I could like the little guys except they smell disgusting and destroy everything they can get their sharp little teeth into, which has included my brand new leather love seat, my favorite comfy shoes and the clothes we store in the back closet until needed — such as my faux leopard cape and the sash to Marc’s green silk brocade smoking jacket.

Years ago, when we caught the first pack rats in our trap, Marc drowned them in the pond. But that was way too gruesome and ran against our general policy of live and let live. So now I haul the little beasts up to Forest Service land and let them go. I figure they probably came off the Forest Service in the first place, so back they go.

But not far enough in the beginning. Marc was right. I was catching the same rats more than once! The first pack rat re-caught had an orange mark. He traveled more than three miles past a lot of really good nesting spots to return to our pole barn. The next rat sported a pink stripe on her back. It took her a day and a half to get home and caught again.

So now I dump them even further up into the forest. So far none have returned, which means there are a bunch of colorful pack rats with pink toenails running around in the woods.

Mary Rea of Mazama is the author of the novel “Ladies Night Out.” Her blog, which follows where her mind wanders, is at She can be reached at