Many people find rats to be revolting creatures, and not just because they are ugly. Rats are notorious for being instrumental in the spread of numerous diseases. Centuries ago, rats facilitated the spread of the Bubonic Plague within Europe. This 14th century pandemic reduced Europe’s population by 50 million people, which was somewhere between 25 to 60 percent of the continent’s total population. Since then, large scale plague outbreaks have occured in other areas of the world, such as Asia and Africa. Needless to say, these pandemics were enough to earn house and field rats a negative reputation that has endured to this day. However, not all rats are ugly creatures associated with deadly disease. For example, the White-throated woodrat (Neotoma albigula) is a packrat that is native to the southwest United States, and by most accounts, the rodents are surprisingly cute and even pet-worthy. Although these packrats are not commonly associated with disease, they are certainly pests to structures, specifically vehicles and homes. One Tucson resident discovered that 6,000 dollars worth of damage had been inflicted onto his Toyota Tundra in just one night by either one or several of these mischievous rats.
Packrats often nest beneath the hood of vehicles, beneath wood scraps and/or garbage and in attics and cacti. Not long ago, a resident of southern Arizona, Richard Wood, had been hauling his horse carriage when he suddenly noticed all of his lights and alarm bells going off in his truck’s cab. Upon pulling over and opening the hood, the man found extensive damage to his engine, especially the wiring, and his entire undercarriage had been chewed thoroughly. Later on, a mechanic found the culprit–two dead packrats within the engine compartment. According to Wood, packrats pose a serious threat to vehicles in southern Arizona because the rodents have adapted to humans moving into their environment. Packrats dwell within the desert but they have adapted to living on the fringes of human society. Packrat infestations in vehicles and homes has increased in accordance with the rapid urbanization that has occurred during the past several decades in southern Arizona. Today, numerous pest control specialists have become established in the region in order to address southern Arizona’s packrat scourge.
Have you ever noticed inexplicable damage to your car that you may now believe was the work of packrats?