Mice...

1:46 p.m. on January 19, 2018 (EST)
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How do you deal with mice getting into your things? Specifically, I'm wondering if I'm being overly cautious or not cautious enough when handling things which have been gnawed on by mice.

I'm talking front-country opportunist mice here, so we might not need to discuss hantavirus or any of the other baddies one might encounter when busting through the door of the dilapidated shack you came across that one time in the middle of canyon country.

For instance, if I have a plastic cup that has been superficially chewed on by mice, a standard course of cleaning and disinfecting should suffice, no? I don't necessarily need to pitch it, right?

What about an article of clothing that has had a hole chewed through it? Here again I suppose that simply laundering the garment and patching the hole is a perfectly sane course of action. Should I be cutting out the frayed bits around the edges of the hole?

6:38 p.m. on January 19, 2018 (EST)
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I keep my good equipment in the house.  I have my pack out so I can look at it.  The smaller items go in plastic storage containers with lids.  I hate having mice get into my stuff.  I run a trap line a couple of times a year. 

Hantavirus is normally only carried by deer mice.  They are brown and white contrasted to the regular domestic mice which are grey or brownish grey. 

7:28 p.m. on January 19, 2018 (EST)
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All the gear is in the gear room, either hanging on the wall, in bins or on shelving. The gear room is where the cats have their cat door into the garage. 

10:57 p.m. on January 19, 2018 (EST)
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Last summer I stocked up at an REI sale on freeze dried meals, but got lazy and dumped it in a milk carton crate in the garage.  A varmint found it a month ago and raided many of the bags.  There may have been some undamaged items, but I was so grossed out I just threw the whole lot out. *&^%$#@!!!

Vince, you'll be just fine following your own advice, as long as we are not talking about food items specifically.  But even then, do note rodents are a persistent nuisance at many points along our food chain.  My sister used to be a lab manager that tested food samples for impurities - they actually have acceptable levels regarding fecal matter and rodent body parts for various foods.  So maybe we are all on the paranoid side, and better off not knowing how sausage is made...

Ed 

 

9:27 a.m. on January 20, 2018 (EST)
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Hantavirus fatalities have been reported from front country settings as well as the boondocks.  About five minutes exposure to direct sunlight will kill the virus.

I would still be cautious....

11:05 a.m. on January 21, 2018 (EST)
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I deal with them in shelters at times.I found to keep my garbage with my food bag after having one go into my pack and tear that up and my TP. I was out for a week.I try and keep away from the mice hotels more and more...But I really wonder since the nibbled on your cup after cleaning it with maybe bleach and detergent you would have a problem...

4:47 p.m. on January 21, 2018 (EST)
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I can't believe you posted this just now. I just got back from a weekend loop in the GSMNP and I'm done with shelters. Here's what happened:

I normally don't use the shelters much but I got lazy and stayed at Spence Field on the AT last Friday night. 

I was the only one there and had a nice fire to dry out my shoes from the snowy trail:


20180119_193438-L.jpg
I saw a few mice but as Denis said their always a part of shelters. 

Anyway, I had hung my pack on a nail (not worried as much about bears in January). 

When I woke in the morning and crawled out of my bag, puffs of down flew up in the air. Upon closer inspection I saw I had two holes in my bag! The little bastards had robbed me while I slept!

But wait, there's more....I took my backpack off the nail and a mouse scurried up and out of the main compartment. Looking in I discovered all the missing down from my backpack. As I turned it upside down to dump it out, I poured out 4 more mice! The industrious vermin had transported all their harvested down to my pack and nested in it!

I had murder in my heart. I hate to admit the ugliness but I tried to stomp them all. I didn't connect with a single one. They were obviously well rested and scattered in all directions. 

They garbage bag liner I use for water proofing had also been chewed through and pooped on. 

Here was the pile of tainted down I dumped out on the shelter floor: 


DSCN4091-L.jpg

My bag is tainted.My backpack is tainted. Nasty disgusting vermin put a bad vibe on my trip, lol. I had another night to go to finish my loop and I did, but I felt dirty.

I'm gonna scrub out that pack with soap. Not sure about the bag yet.

I put Band-Aids on the holes to stop the leaking while finishing the trip:


DSCN4105-L.jpg

And here is the largest hole they opened and harvested:


DSCN4106-L.jpg


 

7:06 p.m. on January 21, 2018 (EST)
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Pat,

Send it to Rainy Pass repair, have them add more down and launder it.  It's the only way to be sure.  

6:58 a.m. on January 22, 2018 (EST)
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Patrick that your western mountaineering bag? oh they bed getting stomped to if it were mine....

7:21 a.m. on January 22, 2018 (EST)
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Denis, yes it is..WM Lynx. I paid $585 for it back in 2010. 

7:26 a.m. on January 22, 2018 (EST)
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Wow that stinks Patrick. I hope you have a backup while you can get that one repaired. You've reinforce my decision never to sleep near a shelter.

9:47 a.m. on January 22, 2018 (EST)
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I use the shelters in GSMNP and on the AT on a regular basis and have never had any trouble with mice. I carry two mousetraps and setting them up is the first thing I do when I take my pack off. We got seven at Bald mountain shelter in December and 11 the next night at No business knob. Hang my food and pack separate with a mouse gaurd and leave all the zippers open. Looks like that would not have helped Patmans bag though, little fellows must have been cold to steal down out of the bag

10:51 a.m. on January 22, 2018 (EST)
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Jason, yeah truly I've spent dozens and dozens of nights in shelters with no such issues. My guess is the abnormally harsh winter has them in desperation survival mode. 

Regardless, this was the last straw for me. The bad fully outweighs the good of a shelter to me. It would have to be a full-on safety issue for me to ever stay near one again.

11:07 a.m. on January 22, 2018 (EST)
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Man, thats brutal Pat. Between this and the bear stealing your pack story maybe you just aren't meant to be outside! ;)

I've had a couple encounters with the little jerks (although both times I'm not %100 sure it was mice, or something else like a rabbit or raccoon).

Once when I was winter camping I had left out my dogs food in a sealed ziplock (it was super cold out and there was no signs of prints anywhere around my camp) to go for a short day hike. I came back and it was ripped open and gone. Had the cut the trip a couple days short cause I just didn't have any other food for them, probably my own fault though.

The second actually happened to my sister and her husband. They were out camping in a torrential thunderstorm. Apparently it scared the mice enough that they ran under the fly sheet of their tent, up the mesh inner and started chewing holes in the top of the inner. They apparently woke up to it literally raining mice onto them in a sealed up tent. HAHAHA

12:24 p.m. on January 22, 2018 (EST)
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Haha Jake, you know both things happened at the shelters; that's the lesson: stay away from shelters!

5:41 p.m. on January 22, 2018 (EST)
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@Pat: That's a great story. I might have been seeing red, too. Sad to hear about the Lynx.

10:29 a.m. on January 25, 2018 (EST)
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I don't know that there is any foolproof way to deal with rodents. They are pretty resourceful. The mild preventive measures I use focus primarily on food residue and odors:

-bag all the food and food trash in a bag (i prefer a dry bag) and hang it, the higher the better for larger animals, or put it in a barrel. The barrel is the most safe if bear are an issue and work for all the other critters too.

-if you spill food, soup, hot chocolate, anything, wipe it up and clean it after the trip. including your tent.  i would think about a more permanent patch; betting WM would do a repair and re-fill the baffled areas that were affected. 

i have never seen mice do that to a down bag or garment. that's a quality nest they were building, 800+ fill power. 

i accidentally left an energy bar in a hip belt pocket of a backpack (gregory baltoro) years ago, and a mouse at its way through the nylon and 1/4 of the bar. almost took a bit before i noticed the shredded corner on the wrapper. give Gregory credit, they replaced the hip belt pad/pocket piece for free, and i was honest about how the hole got there.  

11:30 a.m. on January 25, 2018 (EST)
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My AT plan is never sleep in a shelter. Mice are just one of the reasons. My plan is to eat dinner at the tables found at shelters, and then hike on a few more hours. At GSMNP, I'll have to compromise, but I intend to arrive late enough to find shelters "full."

As a hammock hanger, I keep most of my chewables in my hammock with me for extra insulation. 

My pack is either hung on a tree or placed on the ground directly below me. All zippers, pockets, etc are open so curious mice can come and go without the need to chew. 

On Isle Royale, which has designated camping (and mouse issues), we ran a dyneema line between trees and then hung our food bags from the lines. Each food bag had a homemade baffle made with plastic coffee can lids. Mice could run the lines, but not get past the baffles without falling to the ground. 

5:44 p.m. on January 26, 2018 (EST)
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There really is no good anti mice hang - they climb trees, they shimmy along ropes and cords.  Bear bags may work; bear canisters do work.

There are some places traps are futile (besides being illegal).  When I summer solo in the Sierras, under a full moon sometimes it seems the entire ground is alive with voles - hundreds upon hundreds!  Fortunately they don't seem interested in gnawing my kit and I don't leave any food where they can get at it. 

I had marmots make a mess of a -25 NF winter bag while camped at Arch Lake in the Yosemite NP.  I left it out in the morning sun to dry while fetching water.  I returned to find several large rents in my bag.  The inside of the hood had a 3" circular hole.  The zipper baffle was chewed up along a 24" section, and the inside around the area one's bottom side is positioned had two or three holes several inches wide on both top and bottom panels.  The edge of my blue foam pad was serrated from gnawing.  It took several hours to effect field repairs with thread and needle, and cost $100 to effectively repair back in town.  Given the target zones me think sweat salts and oils were the attractant.  Henceforth I am more vigilant when sunning my bag. 

Ed

8:46 p.m. on January 26, 2018 (EST)
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This notion of sweat & oils making fabrics irresistible to rodents makes me wonder if Mirazyme might act as a repellent?

Besides the ability to break down the oils, and the anti-fungal (and anti-bacterial) properties of it, can anyone relay a story where Mirazyme seemed to make a fabric undesirable to the little industrialists?

7:38 a.m. on January 27, 2018 (EST)
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Not for the UL crowd, but there are foolproof ways to defeat trail mice...

images.jpg

1:04 p.m. on January 27, 2018 (EST)
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I had a squirrel chew through a wire harness for one cylinder in my vehicle while I was in the Gila National Forest, 40 miles from the nearest town.  He also made a nest on top of my engine.  I had to drive out on 5 cylinders.  Luckily there was no engine damage.  Now if I go somewhere, for an extended period in an area which sees little human activity, I'll bring along mothballs and scatter them under and around my vehicle which deters them.  I'm sure mice would stay away also.  But, then you have that mothball odor that goes along with it.

10:10 p.m. on January 31, 2018 (EST)
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I don't think mothballs scare those little critters away. I've used them without success and I've seen photos of nests with mothballs in it! Ammonia works on most mammals but how often will one carry that on an overnight?

Mothballs work on moths. D-con works on mice. Carry a couple cubes with you and let the mice fight over them, lol

I've had mice run across me while in leantos-kind of keeps me sleeping nervously especially when my forehead was part of the runway.

I stored a Sea Eagle raft one winter and found it like Swiss cheese the next spring.

A little bit off the subject but last winter a red squirrel built a bushel sized nest in my vans engine compartment and stored approximately 135 Norway Spruce cones next to it!

12:41 a.m. on February 1, 2018 (EST)
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Rob R said:

I had a squirrel chew through a wire harness for one cylinder in my vehicle while I was in the Gila National Forest, 40 miles from the nearest town...

Certain trailheads in the Sierra are notorious for marmots chewing on vehicle wiring.  I lay out a large blue plastic tarp, drive my truck onto it, then fold up the edges and tie them together, effectively wrapping my truck in a 4' high plastic bowl.  Easy to chew through?  Yep. But is has yet to happen.  Since squirrels can jump, you may need to entirely enclose your vehicle in tarps to preclude them climbing on the vehicle and squeezing between the car body and tarp.

Ed

11:23 a.m. on February 1, 2018 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

There really is no good anti mice hang - they climb trees, they shimmy along ropes and cords.  Bear bags may work; bear canisters do work.

 Take a plastic plate or frisbee and poke a hole through the middle. Tie a knot a few inches above the clip on the end of the line, that won't go through the hole. Thread the rope through the hole. Instant mouse/squirrel shield.

Zpacks also sells dyneema critter proof bags. Reports from customers indicate they do the trick.

10:18 a.m. on February 2, 2018 (EST)
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Whome, that would be tiresome to do that at every trailhead, but, considering the alternative, chewed wires, I suppose it's not that bad, relatively speaking.

Lori, the Ursack Minor is a critter proof bag also.

3:18 p.m. on February 2, 2018 (EST)
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Two things come to mind:

1. When we moved to Tucson, we were advised to put lights under our car to prevent packrats from coming in and chewing the wiring. Some of our neighbors do, some don't, we are doing it just in case.

2. At the end of our JMT 2014 hike, when we left Trail Camp above Lone Pine on our last day, we walked by a tent with a couple of marmots outside. One of us went to investigate and as she approached the tent a whole bunch marmots (9? 12?) came spilling out in all directions. Apparently some poorly-informed hiker(s) had left their food inside the tent while they went up to summit. The marmots had chewed their way in from all sides. There wasn't much we could do about it...

Andrew Skurka calls anything up to raccoon size a "mini-bear". We're using our bear can(s) more often these days just to keep all the varmints out of trouble.

12:11 p.m. on February 3, 2018 (EST)
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At home I keep all my gear in a cedar closet in my garage. So far so good with keeping the mice at bay.... However, I am in the process of still trying to rid the closet of the smell of a dead chipmunk. One must have gotten in when I was loading up the truck for a car camping trip this past October, and upon our return I noticed it stunk something awful. I had figured something died in the wall etc. Well, a couple days later I went in and the smell was absolutely terrible so I began looking around more thoroughly and discovered that while getting gear ready for the car camping trip I placed a large bin of spare gear on the ground....on top of a live chipmunk I guess. Needless to say it has been an experience trying to get the smell out, but it is slowly improving lol.

In the backcountry I have never had an issue, well I take that back, I frequently awaken to the shrill scream of dieing mice. Juno "the mouse slayer" my faithful companion saves her energy up for weeks or months at a time for our trips so that she can patrol all night and savagely attack mice...raccoons, opossums, and various other creatures of the night that venture within her tie out area. I don't know if it's her dedication to the task, luck, or a bit of both but I havn't had any rodent damage to any of my gear while on a trip.

1:16 p.m. on February 3, 2018 (EST)
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Buy that dog a steak! A dog that good deserves a treat!

9:11 p.m. on February 3, 2018 (EST)
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She is a ribeye girl, and always gets her share. Especially on our winter trips, we eat good! Can hardly wait for this weekend for our next outing

I seriously remember waking up one day oh probably 5 years ago or so now to a pile of like a dozen dead mice under my hammock. From that point on she was dubbed Juno "The Mouse Slayer"

4:09 p.m. on February 5, 2018 (EST)
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I remember my first trip to an AT shelter in 1961.  Mice were crawling over our sleeping bags and I did not like it one bit. They show up a lot in old cabins also. 

In Nevada we control mice around houses, barns and garages so we don't get snakes. The previous owner left dog food in the garage and we had lots of gopher snakes around. They were in the garage, on the roof, and on the welcome mat when I opened the door.  Trapping the mice takes care of the snakes.  Now I rarely see one. 

All of my dogs are good mousers.  They take care of moles, voles and ground squirrels. 

7:09 p.m. on February 5, 2018 (EST)
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I've got two dogs and they are no help at all with rodents. We had a mouse issue in the house last year (we back onto a large amount of open field and my neighbour likes to grow crops...but not take care of them, hence its an open buffet for mice) and the dogs couldn't have cared less. I've got a 120 lbs Mastiff and an 80 lbs Eurasier, those little jerks weren't intimated by the dogs at all. Neither has much prey drive, especially as they are now 10 and 8 and getting older, so that doesn't help (in this case). Actually the Mastiff especially is the friendliest dog you've ever seen, so unless your are intimated by his bark (which is quite loud and scary for those unfamiliar with him) then they are very little deterrent for anyone wanting to come in the house un-invited. 

What kind of dogs do you have Ppine? Terriers? Its got to be a working breed right?

7:42 p.m. on February 5, 2018 (EST)
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First time I went to the Bugaboos, when we drove in to the parking area, I noticed the large amount of chain-link wire mesh on the ground. Thankfully, some of the locals pointed out to us newbies that the marmots love to chew on brake and fuel lines. The mesh is provided by the locals to wrap around the underside of your vehicle so the marmots can't get at the hoses. If you don't en-mesh your car, you are likely to have workable brakes, cooling system, and maybe even fuel for the car. The road out to the main highway is a long drive on a steep winding road. I thought the locals were playing a joke on us, until I noticed that the owners of another car in the parking area had just gotten down off a week in the Bugs and were standing around trying to arrange for a tow truck to drive the long distance in to retrieve them.

Speaking of the line-running rodents, I strung a thin line to hang my bagged food one time in the Cascades, believing that no critter was capable of walking a slack line. WRONG! Not only did they get into the bags, but they left their brown droppings in the bags that had the chocolate snacks .

In Yosemite, where the bears attend graduate-level courses in getting at bear-bags, Mama Bears teach the cubs to go up the trees and out on limbs that have counter-balanced food bags. The cubs then dive down onto one of the two counter-hung bags and ride it to the ground. This has been partially remedied by the requirement for bear canisters. Yosemite and Adirondack bears figured out how to open some of the early versions of canisters. 

7:47 p.m. on February 5, 2018 (EST)
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I bought a canister so I could get some practice in for a trip out west this summer. This thread is starting to make me appreciate it even though I have only used it once. 

12:33 a.m. on February 6, 2018 (EST)
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A bear in Desolation Wilderness got into a bear vault. The Adirondaks bear would bite the tabs off the bear vault lid. A bear in Kings Canyon would flip a bear vault on its side and do a quick compression, popping off the lid. (The KC bear was shot, but not before it taught two other bears how to do the same trick...)

I use two other brands -- a Bare Boxer and a Bearikade -- and loan my Bear Vault to other people some of the time.... toying with the thought of selling it.

9:50 a.m. on February 6, 2018 (EST)
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Jake,

All herding dogs. Currently a Border Collie and 2 Welsh Corgis. My best mouser was a Heeler/Aussie cross. BCs are good and so are mixed herding breed dogs.  The male Corgi likes young rabbits and quail.  The yard is full of them.

1:03 p.m. on February 6, 2018 (EST)
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There is one place that I know for sure the mice can defeat the anti-mouse discs that are on the cables: Campsite 37 /Walnut bottoms. I've had mice get my food bags. I've never seen how they do it though. Many others have reported the same compromise of that cable system.

This is a random picture of the steel cables and discs in that park (there are discs at each end of the cable even though this only shows one):


GRSM-Bear%20Wire%20FOS.jpg?itok=jinF5sX6

11:48 a.m. on February 9, 2018 (EST)
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Mice!! Chipmunks can be just as bad..

At home Rubbermaid storage containers.

On the trail that's a hard one you just can't hump extra gear to protect from mouse infestation. peppermint and spearmint oil? But then what would that attract?

12:08 p.m. on February 9, 2018 (EST)
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Pack rats are the worst. My neighbor needed $1,200 in wiring repairs to his car.  I was working on my Ford diesel with arm stuck into my shoulder when I noticed a large pair of eyes from a pack rat that was living in the engine compartment. Previous neighbors moved out in the middle of the night and left trash. 

Leave the hood open and lights on.  I spread some spruce branches around which they don't like.  I set some rat traps by the tie rod ends which is their normal way to reach the engine.  I killed one, and found remains of another killed by a raptor.  That was the end of the pack rat problem.  

8:47 p.m. on February 10, 2018 (EST)
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PPINE-I'm curious how fast did you move out of the engine compartment?

8:46 a.m. on February 11, 2018 (EST)
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Ramseybella said:

Mice!! Chipmunks can be just as bad..

At home Rubbermaid storage containers.

On the trail that's a hard one you just can't hump extra gear to protect from mouse infestation. peppermint and spearmint oil? But then what would that attract?

 Bears at the least. Fella that runs a hunting camp up north told me that peppermint is used as part of their bait strategy because the bears love it and can smell it from miles away.

Since I stopped into say that I'll mention an on topic mouse encounter I had last Winter. Had set up my tent on top of about six feet of snow near an almost buried LT. Some time around 8pm, long after dark and as I was dozing off from my reading. I heard something hit the side of the tent.

Amazing how fast you can go from almost asleep to wide awake and moving fast. First thought was: Mouse! Second thought was: Zippers are open on the roof air vents for maximum air flow!! Before the third thought hit I'd sat up and started scrambling for the screen zips to keep that mouse from tumbling down into my closed up tent. I could just imagine the damage that would be done before I got that scared little bugger out the door and that was motivation enough to get the vents closed before he got in thankfully.

10:00 a.m. on February 11, 2018 (EST)
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OG,

I was stuck in there, so I came out slowly.  We stared each other down. He did not back up.

2:19 p.m. on February 11, 2018 (EST)
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Thanks PPine, I was curious. I have no experience with pack rats-are they normally aggressive?

11:45 a.m. on February 12, 2018 (EST)
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They are not aggressive, but they are about the size of a small cat.  They are somewhat territorial and do not scare easily. 

1:58 p.m. on February 12, 2018 (EST)
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Thanks for the info

8:28 a.m. on February 14, 2018 (EST)
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Could eat them as the guy did in Never Cry Wolf.

September 16, 2019
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