How to get rid of pack rats in your home, car or garage | DIY guide

How to get rid of pack rats

how to get rid of pack rats
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Pack rats are also known as white-throated wood rats or trade rats. Brown or gray in color with white bellies and bushy tails, they are often mistaken for large mice. But don’t be taken in by their cute and fluffy appearance, as these small creatures can cause serious damage, honing their large teeth by chewing. Biting through walls and gnawing into wires they can create fire risks and contaminate areas with their excrement.

Getting rid of pack rats

Contrary to their name, pack rats live alone which should make them easier to eliminate. But methods such as trapping and poison do not solely work on pack rats. To get rid of pack rats for good, you need to eliminate the problem whilst addressing the cause.

So, what is the best way to get rid of pack rats? Below we’ll explain why finding and removing a pack rat nest and sealing all entry points are the only guarantees to be pack rat free.

Pack rats can cause extensive damage to your property and encourage other pests to enter your home. Little house borrowers, they collect small possessions in order to create and decorate their nests.

Destroying landscape, chewing through wires, spoiling our food and shredding our furniture, pack rats seek opportunities to nest in our cars, hide in our A/C units and camp out in our attics, basements and sheds creating thousands of dollars of damage.

Use a rat trap

Although pack rats were around long before us, this does not give them the right to hound us out of our homes and appropriate action should be taken. For most people this involves using a rat trap as like most rodents, pack rats can be easily caught. However, what make these rodents special is their nesting abilities. For their nest is more than a humble home, it is their castle built and used for generations to come. Get rid of one pack rat and another moves straight in.

Rat poison

The next go to method is often rat poison, but these tantalizing treats tend to attract more pack rats in the process. Then over a matter of days they die, become easy pickings for predators such as hawks and owls, who go on to suffer the same fate due to secondary poisoning.

In order to get rid of pack rats successfully, you should make sanitation a priority. Keeping your home clean and disposing of trash properly will keep them well away. If it is too late and a pack rat has already taken up residence in your house, you need to catch the rat by laying a trap, find the nest and then remove it. Once you have achieved this, you should seal off any entry points.

what is a pack rat

What is a pack rat?

In order to get rid of a pack rat, you must first understand and observe their behavior.

You are more likely to come across a pack rat if you live in the hot and humid desert states of western America or northern Mexico, although several species can also be spotted in the woodlands and forests of the east coast.

Pack rats like to be warm but can’t stand the sun, choosing instead to creep around at night. These nocturnal rodents like to live alone except when mating or rearing their young. Able to mate and multiply quickly, one female pack rat can produce two babies every other month. And they start young too, with a newborn female able to restart the production line in just a matter of months!

Nests builders by nature, they choose to live close to human habitations, which provide them with plenty of materials to forage. From electrical wiring to strips of furniture they will take what they can find, although they are particularly hypnotized by shiny objects.

How to get rid of pack rats inside your house

Once you understand the characteristics of pack rats, the solution to removing one from your property is really quite simple. Firstly, you need to catch the rat and for that we suggest using a trap.

Pack rats are not afraid of exploring new objects so will happily wander over to a trap if it is alluring enough. You can place some kind of food bait if you feel they need further encouragement, such as peanut butter, jams or cured meat. Take a look at our blog on best bait stations and also our list our top tempting baits for catching rodents.

We would discourage against poison for the simple reason that you generally only need to catch one pack rat and the process of secondary poisoning could have devastating effects for the local wildlife.

Once you have gotten rid of the pack rat you need to remove their nest, dismantling it using gloves and placing it securely in a trash bag. This is to stop other generations of pack rats moving straight in. If, however, you are unable to reach the nest or remove it, then you should ensure that it is completely sealed off and cannot be accessed by future rats.

If you want more advice on keeping rats out of your house for good, check out our handy hints for rodent proofing your property.

How to get rid of pack rats underneath your house

If a pack rat has burrowed and broken its way into your house and is now living beneath your feet you need to make sure that you get it out a.s.a.p.

With little or no access, laying traps underneath your house can be tricky. Plus, once caught, you don’t want a decomposing rat festering under your floorboards. Therefore, the best way to deal with a pack rat under your house is to encourage it in. In addition to laying a trap filled with sickly sweet offerings, you could also try blowing cold air through the slits of the boards and shining bright lights in order to make it as uncomfortable as possible for the pack rat to live below.

If this does not work then your only solution is to call in a professional pest control expert, who will be used to getting at hard to reach areas.

Once the pack rat has been removed and the nest dealt with, you need to make sure that you seal up any access points to prevent another pack rat problem from occurring under your house.

How to get rid of pack rats in the attic

No matter where the pack rat chooses to nest in your property, it is important that you understand how it got in. Holes and cracks which lead into your attic should be sealed with steel or steel wool as this provides a more permanent deterrent as opposed to any wooden repairs that pack rats can easily chew through.

Once you have closed up any potential escape routes, you should lay a trap and hide in wait. It won’t take long to catch a pack rat; you just need to decide how to dispose of it – dead or alive. If you choose to use a humane trap, then you should release the pack rat far away from your property to ensure that they don’t beat you back to the house.

For more information on how to get rid of rats in the attic read our informative guide.

Getting rid of pack rats in your backyard

Although pack rats are drawn inside by smells and the promise of shelter, they are hardy creatures that are well adept at finding places to nest outdoors. If you have spotted a pack rat in your back yard, then it is important that you deter it for good.

Simple solutions such as eliminating accessible hideaways, sweeping up seed pods and leaves, making sure that your grill cover is on tight and storing garbage waste and compost in metal or hard plastic bins all help to prevent pack rats from staying but won’t necessarily stop them from returning in the future. For further reading on how to repel rats from your backyard naturally click here.

Drawn to the dense and dark vegetation that your yard provides, pack rats choose bushes and shrubs as the perfect place to burrow out their nest. These areas should be your first point of call when looking to remove their dens. You need to be careful placing traps outside due to the potential to injure other animals. That said, under close supervision, it won’t take long to capture your pack rat imposter.

How to get rid of pack rats in sheds

Just like other outbuildings, sheds attract pests. From squirrel and possums to bees, wasps and pack rats they provide the perfect place for a slumber party.

Evicting a pack rat is relatively easy using a trap, it’s keeping it out that often proves tricky. Most pests do not use the doors and windows to enter sheds, instead they find gaps in the roof and cracks and crevices in the walls in which to squeeze through.

Having caught a pack rat, you must make sure that you remove the nest to stop other squatters from finding it. Finally, failure to seal and caulk up any potential entry points will just “leave the door open” for more to come in.

how to get rid of packrats in your car
Credit: Mr. Packrat

How to get rid of pack rats in your garage and car

Putting your car into storage at night might protect it from the elements, but there are more sinister things lurking in the dark that can cause even more damage…pack rats.

Not only does your prized possession provide warmth and shelter, but it’s filled with tasty snacks for a pack rat to devour. The engine is a cozy place to curl up, whilst the insulated wires taste great. From the wheel wells to the passenger compartment no place is safe from a pack rat.

It is difficult to seal up access points to garages and car port shelters as these areas are often in constant use. But, if you want to prevent pack rats opening the door to your vehicle and moving on in, then we suggest using an ultrasonic pest repellent. The high frequency sounds they emit will stop them in their tracks and drive them back out of the lock-up and deep into the desert. If, however, the pack rat is already well at home in your bonnet, then laying a trap to catch the critter may be your only solution.

How to get rid of pack rats naturally

If you are looking for an ethical way to get rid of pack rats, then we would suggest that you try humane trapping otherwise known as live traps.

These traps work incredibly well for small infestations, so catching one pack rat should be a breeze. A live trap is good for the environment and the animal’s wellbeing and looks like a common pet cage when put in place. Equipped with a mesh opening and spring-loaded doors, once activated the sensitive triggers cause the doors to close, shutting the rat inside.

Once safely inside, it is your responsibility to dispose of the pack rat well away from your home, taking care to ensure that the nest is also removed to prevent the rat from returning.

If you don’t want to set a humane trap, other natural remedies that you could try include peppermint oil, chili oil, onions, steel wool or cat litter. Failing these, you could invest in a cat companion because even if it isn’t a hunter, their presence and smell alone can be enough to send a pack rat scampering.

What is the best bait for pack rats?

Rodents are particularly fussy and what tickles one pack rats’ fancy, might not appeal to the taste buds of another. Therefore, we recommend that rather than spending your money trying out loads of weird and wonderful concoctions, instead you use some store cupboard favorites.

Oatmeal, peanut butter, syrups and sticky jams are the best baits because they are difficult for a pack rat to grab on the go. In order to feast on these enticing baits, they have to sit and gorge.

Whilst cheese might sound like a cliché, most rats enjoy a nibble of the smelly stuff especially when it is finished off with a small piece of chocolate.

Will mothballs keep pack rats away?

Mothballs consist of either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene and once these chemicals start to evaporate turning from a solid to a sweet gas, they release a poison that is deadly to moth larvae. Some also believe that mothballs act as a repellent to rats.  We, however, do not.

Apart from being highly toxic to humans and pets if swallowed, mothballs serve very little purpose in the fight against pack rats. Unfortunately, like a lot of deterrents they are just not strong enough to force a pack rat out of its comfort zone.

Summary

Although solitary rodents, a pack rat has the ability to cause serious damage to your property, outbuildings and vehicles. These territorial animals set up nests for life, encouraging their offspring to take up residence once they depart. For this reason, simply getting rid of a pack rat is not enough to get rid of the overall problem. You need to eliminate the source of entry and remove the nest in order to be completely pack rat free.

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