While these are primarily outdoor rodents, they have become more prevalent indoors in structures in the southwest states. Once inside they have the same tendencies for gnawing and property destruction as do the more common structural rats and mice. It derives its name of pack rat from its desire to collect many different kinds of small objects and store them in its “middens”, along with food supplies and other materials. Small shiny objects are particularly attractive to wood rats, who may leave what they previously were carrying in exchange for the new item (“trade” rat). Adults live from less than a year up to 3 years in a natural setting. There may be as many as 5 litters per year with an average of only 2 young per litter. Outdoors wood rats commonly construct their homes of large piles of sticks, and insects associated with them include Assassin Bugs, along with the usual fleas, ticks, or lice. Disease associations with wood rats include Chagas Disease, Lyme Disease, plague, and tularemia, and most recently a close relative of Hantavirus called “Arenavirus”.
Trapping near nests discovered outdoors is successful, with live or kill traps baited with nuts or dried fruit. Toxic bait use is limited, with only a few choices properly labeled for this use. Diligent removal of nests may cause the animals to relocate.