My goodness!! What chonky little rats we have here in Mendocino. The Dusky-footed woodrat to be precise is our most common Mendo rat that lives in the oak woodlands among other places here in our county! They are called “dusky footed” because they have little grey marks that look like soot on their feet, chest, and sometimes adorn their little faces. They build humongous woody mansions that can be up to 5 ft tall with a base of over 3 ft. You will find them in the forests and up in the trees. Their dwellings are extremely organized and tidy. They actually have little separate rooms. One room could be for mushrooms, one for acorns, one is a bathroom, a bedroom, and of course the treasure room and so on. You may be surprised by the objects you will find in a woodrat home.  They like shiny things of all sorts. These houses tend to be amazingly clean, using bay and cedar which is a natural fumigan and anti-fungal to keep them and their families as healthy as possible. It is the females (does) who build and are the master craftrats here.

The eldest female  passes the shelter on down to her daughter and so on. They also have satellite houses as well, second home owners if you can believe!  They are very clever little rodents. They are also called “Pack-rats” or “Trader-rats,” because they carry things around and if they seem something better, they will trade it out for the new found object. Another name for them is a Bushy-tailed woodrat.

They are mostly solitary, but enjoy their neighbors and live together in small villages. The females choose who to mate with, usually favoring the same male companion every year. 

Okay, so that’s the introduction to our awesome little rodent friend, Dusky-footed WR. They are super cute and one of the main staples in the wildlife pantry. They’re a favorite of foxes, bobcats, coyotes, raptors, and even cougars have been known to have a rat snack or two. They are an integral part of our ecosystem.  

Okay, all that said, let’s talk about what a pain they can be and the best possible exclusion tactics. Here are the basics: 

  • Clean around the house. Don’t leave any trash.
  • Thin the trees and bushes near your site, as rats are attracted by thick weaving and dry not groomed plants. …
  • Make sure there are no holes in your walls
  • Use exclusion fencing with small gauges
  • Put fencing around your stalks if they are nibbling to get water
  • Peppermint, grow peppermint everywhere, they hate it
  • Destroy their homes


Now, if you need to trap, go ahead and use a live trap. Once you’ve trapped your rat, carry it over a mile away as they have excellent homing skills. It may not survive, but at least it will make a tasty snack or dinner for a furry or feathered somebody out there.

Okay, so you tried that, they’re not buying the live trap and there are a lot of them. If you need to kill some rats, then you’re going to need to buy a snap trap (please don’t use the glue, so mean). Once you’ve dispatched the little guys, make sure you feed them to wildlife. It will be a perfect find for some lucky somebody out there. Always make sure you are thinking of the whole picture for wildlife. I know how you feel sometimes, they can take down a lot of your plants, they can destroy your home, mess with your chicken coop and eat your greens!

I get you feel so mad sometimes you don’t care how they die, just gettum gone! Well my friends it’s totally up to us to give a rats ass, pardon the pun. We must make our decisions with care. So, bottom line here; DO NOT EVER USE POISON. DO NOT EVER USE POISON, DO NOT EVER USE POISON. I know the other ways are more laborious and time consuming, but they are a more sustainable solution and will make your soul proud of you. You don’t want to be the one that poisoned the rat and killed the eagle! What about that human that poisoned that rat that killed your neighbors cat!  Also, remember, look for their houses, you can take them down and make it inhospitable for them, they will have to invest in some other piece of real estate.

Look for a bill coming out called AB 1788 California Ecosystems Protection Act – Protecting California …

Jun 09, 2020 · California Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Raptors Are the Solution (RATS) are sponsoring AB 1788, the California Ecosystems Protection Act, which would ban the use of second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) throughout the state, except for agricultural use or by special permit. Check it out if you want and stay cool.