Nothing infuriates a stockman like finding fresh pack rat urine on your favorite saddle pad, and he had done it one too many times. For those uneducated to the ways of the wood rat (pack rat), allow me to educate you on this crafty and elusive adversary.

Whitehurst billy
PAS / Makale Livestock LLC

Pack rats have been a nemesis to ranchers for years. We find them in barns, sheds, under our shops and in the couch at cow camp. If left to their own, they carry off anything that’s not heavier than they are, and if left unchecked, these nests become elaborate and large. Apparently, this particular pack rat had been left unchecked immediately above the tack room in the barn prior to us purchasing the ranch about a year ago.

Given the amount of work to fix up the place, I gave little thought to the furry critter that I could occasionally hear (but never see) in the rafters of the barn. I thought I would trap him when I had the chance among all the clean up and fix up work that was going on. I knew he had to be big, as our barn cats (catching them and relocating them to a new location was a story in itself) have brought in muskrats and rabbits before, and they wouldn’t touch this critter.

I used to think I held average intelligence for a country boy, until I met this rat. Over a year’s time, I tried every trap imaginable to no avail. I mostly ended up releasing cats from live traps on a regular basis. In the end, it boiled down to a bottle of coffee, a .22 rifle and waiting through the night. In the end, he showed himself and the battle ensued. My wife heard it from the house and thought I was reenacting the Sands of Iwo Jima in the barn. In the end, I prevailed and there was rat carcass (and empty magazines) on the barn floor. The next day, I went to town and purchased the materials necessary to patch the bullet-riddled roof and life goes on.

One thing I learned from the rat was that sometimes we just have to slow down, bite the bullet and fight our battles on our terms. If we don’t, the little things will suck the time and energy out of us more than if we just confront it head-on and get it behind us. In the new year, I would encourage us all to determine which of our own little “pack rat wars” we need to face and quit picking at them in vain and instead face them head-on so we can move forward with our lives. May your new year be happy and successful.  end mark


Billy Whitehurst has spent several years as a working cowboy, rancher, land and livestock consultant, BQA trainer and university extension educator in Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. He currently resides near Cardwell, Montana. Email Billy Whitehurst.