The natural landscaping around your home is far from natural. In a balanced environment, the overall number of pack rat nests tends to remain close to constant as existing nests are reused again and again. Any new nests are offset by the abandonment of old, inadequate nests due to the death of the cacti, flooding, or other changes. Depending on the area, 4 to 6 pack rat nests to an acre is typical.
The balance is maintained by a combination of available habitat and predators. A significant change in either will greatly affect the pack rat population. Where there is urban development, even in a natural setting, the balance is upset.
Habitat changes, including nonnative plants and drip irrigation, provide an abundant and attractive year-round food source. Run-off from roads, driveways, roofs and patios lead to increased ground cover and thicker vegetation around homes. More vegetation means more shelter for rats.
Snakes, skunks, foxes, coyotes, bobcats and other predators are drawn to these prey-rich areas creating further nuisances for homeowners. Nuisance predators, like rattlesnakes, are often removed or killed. Other predators like owls, hawks, coyotes and bob cats may succumb to secondary poisoning. Over time the predator population diminishes and becomes less effective.
Meanwhile the pack rat population increases higher and higher. It is not uncommon to find homes in the Foothills encircled by over 30 rat nests. These nests can produce over 300 baby rats a year! Nature's balance is completely thrown off and can only be restored by some type of intervention.
You can never completely restore the environment to a truly natural balance as long as there are homes, streets, people and pets. You can compensate by focusing on:
• If you have an existing rat problem, deal with it first. You cannot "prevent" an existing problem away.
• Minimize pack rat habitat. Pack rats need a safe place to start a new home; somewhere already semi-protected where they feel some level of safety. Look for and eliminate areas within a buffer -zone around your home where a pack rat can go, but a larger predator cannot. Ideally an animal the size of a rat should have no place to hide.
Areas to address:
• Keep at least 12" of space between items kept outside like furniture, storage bins, pots, garbage cans, stacks of bricks. Never put things 1-3" away from a wall creating narrow spaces.
• Never store anything in a carport, but the cars.
• Dead and fallen cactus - remove it.
• Overgrown cactus. Cactus needs to be trimmed and thinned just like trees do. The cactus can touch the ground, but needs to be open like the spokes of a wheel.
• Low hanging branches should not touch the ground.
• Agaves and yuccas should not be allowed to grow in tight clumps. Thin as needed.
• Agave branches need to be trimmed when dead or are growing horizontal close to the ground.
• Desert spoons need to be trimmed when they start to develop a "skirt" of dead growth.
• Low hanging branches on bushes should be trimmed off the ground.
• Wood piles need to be stored elevated and free-standing.
• Do not grow rosemary in large continuous bands or clumps. Allow space between plants.
• Large rocks should be spread out to minimize voids.
Mr. Pack Rat can provide advice on the best prevention steps for your property at time of inspection. We also offer an exclusive complete prevention service - DeterScape.
Making It Worse - What Not To Do
Some things that inadvertently encourage pack rats:
• Using poison bait. Does more harm, than good and actually can increase the pack rat problem overtime. See Problems with Poison.
• Leaving pet food out overnight. Sometimes we will find 30lbs of dog food stashed away in a pack rat nest.
• Leaving bird seed out all day long. If you want to feed the birds, put out loose seed in the morning, so all of the seed is completely gone before the rats come out at night.
• Putting rocks or cement in pack rat burrows digging under AC units, pool equipment and rock retaining walls. The rats will easily dig around the rocks and have now you have given them even more shelter.
• Leaving the area around a house "natural". See Its Not Natural.
• Doing partial rat-proofing. Closing off the obvious openings to a shed, garage, attic, pool heater, etc, while overlooking harder to find openings can make rats feel even more secure.
• Using a full length grill cover. Do not use a grill cover, or hem the cover so it is at least 24" off the ground.
• Creating more habitat. See Restoring Balance.
The DeterScape Solution
DeterScape is a unique Mr. Pack Rat prevention service designed to minimize pack rats, snakes and other nuisance wildlife near your home, while maintaining a natural desert look. DeterScape is designed to help restore a more natural balance by creating a buffer zone around your home. Within the buffer zone pack rats will be removed and habitat will be minimized while maintaining an overall natural appearance. A DeterScape buffer zone may include:
• Trapping and removal of pack rats
• Treatment of rat nests with a natural insecticide for kissing bugs and other pests as needed
• Destroying and removal of pack rat nests
• Trimming of low-hanging branches on trees & bushes
• Removal of dead cactus and large, fallen branches
• Trimming of overgrown desert spoons
• Trimming & thinning of overgrown agaves
• Trimming & thinning of overgrown cactus
• Thinning of underbrush and overgrown plants
• Pick-up and removal of trash
• Rock & boulder rearrangement to reduce harborage potential as necessary
• Open space creation by removal of hiding areas
• Cut down desert brooms
• Advise on any additional steps the homeowner should take to minimize pack rats.
DeterScape is not intended to be a manicured landscaping service. Emphasis is on creating and maintaining a natural desert landscaping environment while minimizing nuisance wildlife life. Any trimming and removal is carefully done to minimize pack rats, snakes and predators while still providing ample cover for quail, dove and smaller animals.
Mr. Pack Rat uses it unique knowledge and experience to know just how much to remove for the optimal balance.
Mr. Pack Rat provides the following DeterScape initial service options:
1. Trapping and removal of the pack rat nests and provide DeterScape recommendations
2. Trapping and removal of the pack rat nests and work with the homeowner's current landscape service on DeterScape recommendations
3. Trapping and removal of the pack rat nests and perform all DeterScape recommendations.
Deterscape Maintenance Service
Two programs are available for the maintenance of the DeterScape buffer zone:
Limited: Pack Rat Nest Only - Quarterly Maintenance
Mr. Pack Rat will inspect the area within the buffer-zone every three months for new pack rat nesting activity. Mr. Pack Rat will trap, treat, destroy, trim and remove debris from any nests located at a preset discounted rate. Any additional preventative landscape clean-up and maintenance are the customer’s responsibility.
Full: DeterScape Prevention Cleanup & Quarterly Maintenance
Every three months Mr. Pack Rat will inspect and perform additional deterrence landscape & maintenance services, as needed, within the buffer-zone so as to minimize the potential for pack rat nesting. If any pack rat nests are discovered in the buffer zone Mr. Pack Rat will trap, treat, destroy, trim and remove debris from nests at no additional charge.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"
- Benjamin Franklin
This quotation could not be more true when it comes to keeping rats out of objects they can literally destroy overnight. To a pack rat your pool heater, grill, spa, attic and air conditioner are nothing more than a convenient cave; a safe place to live. Those wires? Tasty treats that look like plant roots. If you live in an area where pack rats are common, you want to be sure that all potential openings are well sealed*.
Mr. Pack Rat can perform a rat-proofing prevention inspection at no charge if you are in our primary service area.
Times to consider an inspection/consultation:
• Buying a home? If it is an area with pack rats, get an inspection before you buy.
• New construction completion - even new homes can have rat-entry points. Best time to check if when all construction is complete, but before you move in.
• Replacing equipment - some new models of pool heaters, air conditioners, etc. are more prone to pack rats than the older units they replace.
Mr. Pack Rat are exclusion specialists, we know what to look for and we know how to fix it. See Rat-Proofing.
*One note of caution: Dryer vents require special attention and are often improperly screened. Do not screen a dryer vent yourself unless you use an approved dryer vent removable screen. Mr. Pack Rat has developed safe effective ways to screen most dryer vents to keep rats out while not restricting air flow.