Bushy-tailed Woodrat (Neotoma cinerea)

A Bushy-tailed woodrat peaks out of a rock crevice.
Bushy-tailed Woodrats, also called packrats, make their home inside the natural opening of Jewel Cave.

NPS Photo

A Bushytailed Woodrat peaks from a rocky area with a yellow flower on its left
At Jewel Cave National Monument, Bushy-tailed woodrats are commonly seen around the historic area.

NPS Photo

Bushy-tailed Woodrat
Neotoma cinerea
  • The Bushy-tailed woodrat is also known as a pack rat and a trade rat.
  • The name pack rat comes from its habit of stowing many odds and ends in its house.
  • Trade rat comes from its tendency to drop things it was carrying in exchange for something else, apparently more interesting to the rat.

Size and Description
  • The bushy-tailed wood rat is a medium sized rat, weighing from 7-21 ounces and measuring 13-17 inches in length from nose to tip of tail.
  • Its coloration is usually light brown to gray on most of its body with shades of black coming from its longer guard hairs.
  • The underside of the rat, from chin to tail and including the feet, is white.
  • Characteristically recognized by its large 5-7.5-inch-long bushy tail which is usually grayer than the rest of the body. The oldest and most mature males will have the bushiest and grayest tails, resembling a bottle brush in shape.
A close up picture of a bushytailed woodrat
Bushy-tailed woodrats are also known as packrats. They find items that interest them and bring them to their midden to keep. Woodrat middens can be found all throughout the walls of Hell canyon which line parts of the Canyons Trail.

NPS photo

  • Bushy-tailed woodrats inhabit mountainous areas of north America that have rimrocks or rocky outcroppings. They prefer to make nests in caves, rockslides, crevices and abandoned man-made structures.
  • Known as pack rats, they spend much of their time collecting objects they find interesting from around their nests and stashing these objects in their nests. Some things will be eaten, others will simply be kept as treasure and used to fortify the walls of their nests.
  • They are known to collect sticks, bones, pinecones, bits of rope and leather, feathers, owl pellets, and paper; as well as anything else any individual rat finds interesting.
  • Once collected, the rat will urinate on everything in its nest to mark it with scent and formally claiming ownership. Over time, the urine will crystalize and cement everything in place. Packrat nests are known to stay in place for thousands of years under the right conditions.

  • Diet consists of plant parts, mostly pine needles and pinecones, leaves from shrubs or forbs, fungi, and many types of fruit and berries.

Interactions with other animals
  • Bushy-tailed woodrats are on the menu for most small/medium sized predators including long tailed weasels, foxes, bobcats, coyotes and owls.

Last updated: January 10, 2024

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