Friday, August 28, 2009

Oh Rats! I have RATS!

See this woodland creature nomming on the mesquite beans by my barbecue? It's a rat! My dilemma is deciding whether it is a native rat or an alien species of rat. Should I feel flattered that I have created a welcoming micro-habitat or should I plan its demise?

The suspect imports are the wharf rat (Rattus norvegicus) or the black rat (Rattus rattus). Wharf rats have small eyes and ears, black rats have large eyes and ears. So it's not a wharf rat. Phoenix has an expanding infestation of black rats: wire-chewing, attic dwelling, flea-infested rats of the kind that was common during the Black Death.

The suspect native rodents are the cotton rat (Sigmodon arizonae) and the pack rat (Neotoma albigula). Both have big eyes and ears. Cotton rats have tails that are definitely shorter than their bodies, and Ratso here has a tail as long as his body. So it's not a cotton rat.

The hard step is deciding whether I have a black rat (very bad) or a pack rat (not so bad). The biggest difference between the two is that a black rat's tail is naked and a pack rat's tail is covered with short hair. From this picture, it's hard to tell.

More later, on the same Rat Channel.

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