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Rat Wars . . . a scientific investigation

Rat Wars . . . a scientific investigation


Long time readers will recall that since early August I have been fighting an infestation of Wood Rats.  During the worst period last fall, there would be at least two dozen running all over the cabin . . . inside its walls, up and down the surfaces of interior walls, across ceiling beams right over my computer, inside the kitchen cabinets and about everywhere else.  As of this morning I have killed 68 of them.  That does not include those killed by rat snakes and my female herd dog . . . plus a rat snake that was killed in a rat trap.  Because it smelled like a rat, the snake attempted to strangle the trap and then stuck his head in the trap to eat it.  Female rats even built nests in my silverware and knife drawers in the kitchen.

Wood Rats are a very close relative of the Lemming of Lappland.  They are almost identical in appearance and size to a Lemming. They have brown, tan, beige, tan and white fur . . . quite a bit more handsome than the Wharf Rat aka known as the Norway Rat . . . and are also substantially smaller.  Nevertheless, because they are essentially wild, woodland animals, they can be much more destructive than Wharf Rats.  They will literally eat wood, if they can’t find insects, field mice and voles to eat. They also like natural rubber. Last fall they ate the rubber handles of two can openers in succession, until I was forced to keep the third can opener, that I purchased, in a metal box. 

The observed scientific phenomena were:

  1.  They were very rarely seen or heard in the daytime, but would appear in vast numbers just before I hit the sack.
  2.  Gangs of Wood Rats would fight and kill each other before my very eyes.
  3.  Gangs of Wood Rats were observed coming in from the woods at night . . . climbing the walls onto the metal roof and then entering holes in the roof, left by the tornado last March.
  4.  On some evenings I would hear the pitterpat of perhaps a dozen to two dozen rats scurrying across the metal roof.
  5.  During the past two mornings, I have observed herds of Wood Rats departing this hovel just before sunrise and heading back into the woods.  The groups of rats went in different directions . . . thus indicating that Wood Rats are territorial hunter-gatherers.
  6. During the late fall, skunks began coming into the crawl space to hunt rats a night.  The rats have torn apart the heating ducts of the non-functioning furnace.   A skunk crawled up the air return duct and was being chased around the house by my female dogs, when I woke up in the morning.  Don’t try this experiment at home, alone!
  7. I have found that the best way to clear the rats from the living areas of the cabin (while I am awake) is to make the sound of a Barred Owl.  I learned how to make various owl sounds in 2010, because the Nazi’s planning attacks on my campsite at night communicated with owl sounds.  If you do some historical research, you will find that one of the secret, paramilitary, racist organizations that appeared during the 1800s in the Southeast was the Hoot Owl Society.   Most all Native American tribes, except the Creeks, are afraid of owl sounds and thought it was a sign that someone was about to die.  The Creeks traditionally believed that especially righteous elders chose to become owls instead of going to heaven, in order to protect Creek towns from Nazis and Cherokees.  So when the Nazi’s here in the Appalachians thought they were terrifying a Cherokee lad, they were actually providing an opportunity for a Creek lad to lure them into night-time ambushes.

Get thee hither abominable rats!

Eureka!  I have figured out what is going on.  Most of the animals, such as skunks, foxes, coyotes and owls, who hut wild rodents, hunt at night. Over the thirty+ years that this cabin has existed, some especially smart Chesse Mekko (King Rat) figured out that if his particular village came into this structure at night, the predators could not catch them.  Even a skunk can’t squeeze into a 4″ interior wall.   Now several competing Wood Rat Tribes are aware of the potential sanctuary of this hovel at night. They explains why newcomer rats keep on walking into the traps that I set for their predecessors. 


Now you know!

PS –  I have no idea who owns or operates this website now.  If you have complaints, there is nothing I can do.   I have been unable to get a response from our long time webmaster either by email or telephone, since late October.  The server computer is now in Missouri.

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    get some cats

    • That’s not an option with three herd dogs living with me. However, my female dog has learned how to catch and kill rats, who venture onto the floor of the cabin at night. She gets one or two a week now.


    Hey Richard,
    I still think you should get a rat terrier
    Another idea is if you know someone with cats that use a litterbox, get some used litter, remove the solids and sprinkle the rest with the urine around. It may help keep them away.
    One of rhe guys i work with lives in the area near you and tells me he has problems with wild life all the time. As he said “Thats livun in the woods!”
    Good luck with the fight!

    • I think I should move to a farmhouse with a working furnace and air conditioner!


        I have a camping trailer I stayed in for deer hunting. the rat/mice problems were about as you describe. after years trying to catch/control them, I found the only thing that worked was to put out poison pellets for them. that worked. I am aware of the other animal issues and am amazed you have not had the wiring in your automobile & computer chewed beyond recognition. everyone thinks the rat will eat the poison, go out in the open to die, then a predator will swoop down…eat the rat and die also , but the ones I saw hid out to die die die die.

        • Actually, they did build a nest on my car and got fried . . . but not before chewing completely through the windshield wiper fluid line and drinking the fluid. So when they were fried, they were already dead from the wiper fluid. An old Creek favorite . . . barbecued Wood Rat! LOL


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