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Pack rat

A pack rat, also called a trade rat or wood rat, is generally of the species Neotoma cinema, but other species of Neotoma also fall into the category. They are prevalent in the deserts of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Pack rats are a bit smaller than a typical rat and have long 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. In a house they are active nocturnally, searhing 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.

Houses in or near ghost towns ghost towns such as Crestone, Colorado typically were infested with pack rats which provided a measure of entertainment to the sensation-starved residents.

Some species of pack rats were called "prairie flounders" by settlers. This might have occurred because the pack rats' eyes were 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.

External Links

  • Packrats (http://www.desertusa.com/mag99/apr/papr/packrats)

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