These are all things I've known about packrats for years. What I didn't know until recently is that they are also VERY cute! A few weeks ago I was enjoying the hard earned view atop a peak in the park when a charismatic rodent captured my attention. As it darted quickly through rocks, disappearing in front of me and emerging behind me, I ran through the list of animals I knew. It wasn't a pika, or a squirrel, or a mouse . . . it had big eyes, round ears, a long tail, and enormous whiskers. Unable to come to a conclusion I settled on "Whiskers." After returning to Yosemite valley, and my field guide, I learned that Whiskers was a collector!
Up until then my sole encounter with a packrat involved a backcountry camping trip and a missing spatula. Among the twigs and rocks and dung, packrats collect treasures. And, they love anything shiny! If a packrat is out collecting and sees an enticing treasure, it will take the item and leave whatever it's carrying. Their fascination with shiny objects has meant that for thousands of years, beyond climate and ecological information, packrats have captured human stories as well. Indian artifacts, jewelry, cutlery, car parts, and keys are just a few things to finds themselves carefully tucked away and encased in amberat. Imagine the stories a packrat could tell. What would you like to know?
But remember, if you find yourself wondering, "Where's the __________ [something shiny]?" on a camping trip, look to see if Whiskers made a trade before accusing your friends of mismanaging gear!