Fix-It Chick: Controlling packrats

Neotoma Floridana or eastern woodrats, commonly referred to as packrats, are one of the more challenging pests for homeowners and mechanics alike.

These large brown nocturnal rodents are known for appropriating large amounts of produce and various inedible objects, including electrical wiring and tools. Their lust for strange and shiny things is often highly destructive and unnerving.

If you suddenly find things disappearing, a packrat might be to blame.

Step 1: The good news is packrats reproduce a lot less often than mice, so the infestation may be limited to one or two rats. Trapping packrats with a baited live animal trap or large traditional snap traps can solve the problem in less than a fortnight.

Place the trap along a wall near the infested area. Bait the trap with meat, nuts or peanut butter. Tethering loose bait to the trap with a string will increase the chances of a successful hunt.

When using traditional snap traps, pre-bait the trap for a day or two without setting the trap. Pre-baiting allows the rat to retrieve the bait without harm and increases the chance of catching the rat successfully once the trap has been set. Wear gloves and use caution when dealing with or disposing of captured rats.

Step 2: Exclusion is the best solution for packrats. Begin by locating the packrat nest and eliminate it. Nests are typically made from twigs and leaves and adorned with found objects. They can be located in walls, attics and crawlspaces, under trees and bushes or in various other areas that afford the rat some protection.

Once the nest has been located and removed, seal up access points to the area. Rats can squeeze through openings as small as a half inch in diameter. They are also notorious climbers, so look high and low. Fill the cracks and crevices with caulk and board up any larger holes to prevent re-infestation.

Step 3: Create a less-inviting property by clearing away debris and trimming back shrubs and trees. Keep trash cans covered and eliminate or control food and water sources, such as pet bowls, bird feeders, culled fruit and compost piles. Indoors, eliminate clutter, pack away food sources in glass or plastic containers and store away pet food bowls at night.

Step 4: Pelleted rat poison can be used to eliminate packrats, but is not as effective as trapping and exclusion.

— Have a home improvement question you want answered by the Fix-It Chick? Email it to Linda Cottin at


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