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Idaho Fish and Game

Meet February’s Wildlife Express featured critter, the bushy-tailed woodrat


Chances are good you know this nocturnal hoarder by a different name

We all know someone that would rather have a root canal than get rid of clutter. We call these acquaintances “pack rats” because rather than consistently get rid of things they no longer need, they instead build up mounds of miscellaneous knickknacks that only they and maybe a woodrat would find valuable. 

Now, no disrespect to the bushy-tailed woodrat, February’s Wildlife Express featured critter. These literal pack rats, as they’re more commonly known, make it their life’s work to collect enough objects to furnish their home, otherwise known as a midden, and do so mostly under cover of darkness. 

If you’ve ever laid eyes on a woodrat, you’d see just how big their eyes and whiskers are. These two features give the woodrat a huge advantage when scurrying around at night, collecting shredded plants and twigs. It is here, within the walls of the woodrat’s midden, that they build dens, where the female can give birth to typically three pups per litter. A female can have as many as three litters a year. 

wood rat August 2005
A bushy-tailed woodrat at night.

Bushy-Tailed Woodrat Facts

  • Male bushy-tailed woodrats are called bucks; females are called does. Toss that little fact out there to your buddies next time you’re sitting around the fire at hunting camp.
  • Newborn bushy-tailed woodrats are called pinkies.
  • A woodrat will poop 40-50 times per day.
  • Aside from being called packrats, these critters are also known as trade rats. 
  • Some middens can reach up to 6 feet tall.
  • Woodrats don’t hibernate, so they must store enough food to get them through winter.
  • Woodrats don’t have to drink water because they get their hydration from plants. 
  • Paleontologists have discovered woodrat middens that date over 40,000 year old. 
  • Their middens can act as time capsules. When their urine crystalizes, it can trap (or fossilize) other biological matter, including plants, insects and pollen. 

There’s a whole fascinating, hidden world lurking in the lives of bushy-tailed woodrats. Check out Fish and Game’s Wildlife Express newsletter webpage to read a whole lot more about the kleptomaniac pack rats living in just about every corner of Idaho.