The Bushy-tailed Woodrat

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“You only need sit still long enough in some attractive spot in the woods
that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves to you by turns.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

A Delightful Encounter on Mount Indefatigable

Some years ago, as my partner and I rested on the rocks at the top of the outlier peak of Mount Indefatigable in Kananaskis Country (a beautiful mountain park in Alberta, Canada), I felt a light, slightly scratchy tickle on my bare calf. I looked down to see that it was the fellow pictured above, a cute rodent which I later identified as a Bushy-tailed Woodrat. It had the longest whiskers I’d ever seen. This little guy was intent on licking the salt minerals from my leg. I sat quietly, trying not to move or giggle. I was literally tickled pink! He continued to delicately lick my leg, totally unafraid, showing no signs of stopping until we finished our lunch and got up to continue on our mountain hike.

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Mount Indefatigable, in Kananaskis Country, as seen from Upper Kananaskis Lake. The outlier is the second highest peak on the right.

Serious Collectors

The Bushy-tailed Woodrat is a species of packrat (so-called because of their propensity to collect all sorts of objects and carry them back to their messy homes). This, the most northerly of all woodrat species, can be found in only a few areas of our mountain national parks. For some unknown reason, woodrats love to collect things for which they appear to have no real use. They are attracted to all sorts of man-made objects and particularly love metal and anything shiny.

Here are a couple fun anecdotes that I read about these guys in my Pattie & Fisher field guide, Mammals of Alberta:

“Woodrats are sometimes called “trade rats,” because they are nearly always carrying something in their teeth and dropping that item to take something else. Thus, camping gear, false teeth, tools or even jewellery may disappear from a campsite, with sticks, bones or pinecones kindly left in their place.”

“When a very old woodrat nest in a decrepit cabin near the Banff Springs Hotel was torn apart some years ago, a complete collection of hotel silverware dating back to the earliest days of the establishment was discovered.”

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Me, on top of the world, walking along the outlier peak of Mount Indefatigable, Kananaskis Country, Alberta.

Image Credits:

Bushy-tailed Woodrat, by madlyinlovewithlife; © 2011 madlyinlovewithlife

Mount Indefatigable, by madlyinlovewithlife; © 2011 madlyinlovewithlife

On Top of the World, by BJC; © 2011 (used with permission)

23 thoughts on “The Bushy-tailed Woodrat

  1. From your image of woodrats Jeannie they look kind of cute. it must have been something with it licking your leg.Thank you for the interesting info on them..

  2. Stunning shots all of them! It must have been so much fun to experience some ‘close time’ with the woodrats :) Thank you so much for making my morning Jeannie.

  3. Oh, Jeannie! You are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place. I envy you! Your little woodrat friend is just adorable, too! Have a great week!

    • Thanks, Lis! We do feel fortunate to live only an hour away from the Rockies—it’s a nice get-away from city life. And I’m glad you like my little woodrat friend. Many people don’t like rodents, but I think they are the cutest things! Wishing you a great week ahead! :))

  4. A cute little critter :)I didn’t realize that they were little thieves as well Wonderful shots and story Jeannie…Have a great week :))

    • Thanks, Sam! I’m quite fond of rodents in general and I find this little guy particularity cute! I’m glad you enjoyed the anecdotal notes about the Bushy-tailed Woodrat. I thought they were fun! Wishing you a happy week ahead! :))

  5. Such a cute little guy. Your photographs are so amazing as usual. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful stories and photos!

  6. Jeannie, you continue to amaze us… how wildlife seem to sense your kind soul and show no fear coming right up to you… Even land on your hand or in this case, lick you! Unbelievable but then again, no… And the photo of you on top of the world… I have vertigo and man, did I get light-headed! Beautiful shot. But your critter pic takes the cake (and I’m sure you baked it!).

    • Thank you so much for your gracious words, my friend. I’m generally not that great at wildlife shots, but this little guy came so close, I could take my time and I was able get one decent shot! :))

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