Posted by: Robin Koontz | December 25, 2011

Our friend, the neotoma cinerea

I mentioned earlier that we had a pretty amazing resident in the upstairs of our barn. It was a bushy-tailed packrat (one word is correct, according to most). Aren’t they cute?

The upstairs of our barn is a fairly well organized mess of a wide variety of building hardware in boxes. Some Marvin has accumulated in 30+ years as a remodeler, some came from the various shops and outbuildings we have since torn down, and some were even treasures I found at yard sales, like, joist hangers. Much of the stuff is shiny metal, something that packrats love. Especially this one.

She raided boxes of nuts, bolts, screws, and joist hangers, and hauled it all to a corner of the attic. She built what looks to most like a pile of nuts, bolts, screws, and joist hangers, but was her home. We put up with the mess and stink for a month or so, just to see how large she would make her castle.

But, apparently she believed in sharing, because rather than continue work on the first house, called a midden if you’re a packrat enthusiast, which we are not, she built a guest cottage.

That was it for us. We set up our Have-a-Heart trap, baited it with shiny metal stuff, and caught her. We drove her to a spot about four miles away and released her close to a pile of old railroad ties. We suspect she is busy pulling spikes from the track and constructing her new home.

We pondered how she carried all that stuff to her worksite. Looks like she may have made use of a trowel to gather up some bits. The trowel Marvin thinks came from downstairs, so she hauled it up the stairs and used it to sweep up her treasures? We’ll never know. We cleaned up the mess today. Merry Christmas!


  1. Pretty amazing! What a great story! Kids will love this true story.

  2. Great stuff!

  3. OMG Robin! What a hoot! Cannot believe you got a picture of her. I recently had a family of mice stuff my car intake hoses and filter with debris-cat & dog food, cat litter, leaves. I limped into the mechanics when my car would not go above 40mph. They were highly amused as they handed me a garbage bag filled 3 inches deep with their nesting fodder, and a bill. I was not!
    Wendy Myers

    • Yah Wendy, mice love nice warm car parts! My mechanic nicknamed me “ratwoman” because of all the mouse issues I’ve had in my cars over the years. The first photo here is stock of a packrat – I only took the photos of the metal nests.

  4. I’ve never seen that before! How odd they like to live in such hard “houses.” 🙂 Cute animals though! And thanks for visiting my blog! Happy Thursday to ya.

  5. Oh, what a darling little critter! I never knew that packrats were actually packrats. I guess the name had to come from somewhere, eh? Pretty amazing creatures.

  6. Indeed this is just the beginning of a book. What a great Christmas read.

  7. You are right. There is definitely a storybook here.

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