Let’s talk about how to get rid of packrats, and more importantly, how to prevent them from moving in when desert camping. Boondocking presents some unexpected challenges. One of those comes with four legs, big ears, and a long tail. Here are some tips for preventing and getting rid of packrats in your RV. Packrats are the nemesis of an RVer.
When I started boondocking last summer I had no idea packrats were an issue for RVers. I occasionally notice other campers would leave the hoods up on their vehicles but I had no idea why.
Desert Packrats are also called Wood Rats. They are nesters and generally build their nests in rock crevices or at the base of a cactus or yucca using the spines as protection from preditors.
Yes, you can get packrats in a campground too. The family a few spaces up from me has been battling packrats for a few weeks now. I’m prepared to attack if they try to move in with us. I’ve been researching prevention and how to get rid of packrats and here are my plans.
Why are packrats a problem for RVers?
Aside from germs and disease, packrats will build nests in dark, enclosed places like your engine compartment or storage bays. They are looking for food, water, and nest materials. Most newer model vehicles are wired with wiring made with soy products. Look at your rig as the perfect habitat for packrats. There are dark nooks and crannies filled with soy-coated wires to munch on and insulation to nest in. What could be better? They can cause thousands of dollars in damage to your vehicles. Packrats are nocturnal so you like won’t see them but you might see evidence of them such as droppings or nesting materials.
How can you keep packrats out of your RV or vehicle?
Think about what packrats are looking for; food, water, and a dark place to nest.
- Park away from vegetation, overhanging tree branches, etc.
- It may sound like common sense but keep it clean. Any food or water left out will attract them. Wipe down your kitchen thoroughly and often. This goes for inside kitchens as well as outside. Don’t leave food out. Store it in airtight containers.
- Don’t leave your pet’s food or water outside.
- Keep your hood up so light (even moonlight) shines in. This will make your engine compartment less attractive as a new rodent home. Make sure you don’t run your battery down by leaving the engine compartment light on.
- Keep your eyes open. Inspect your engine compartments, storage bays, truck bed, and any other places they might get in often. If you see droppings, evidence of chewing, or nesting materials, don’t wait to take action.
- Be sure to inspect your rig thoroughly to locate and close any openings where a rodent might enter. There may be a space near a wire, pipe, or hose just large enough to let them in. Stuffing the space with steel wool will keep rodents at bay.
- Consider an ultrasonic rat deterrent. I installed one of these over a year ago to keep the rodents on my brother’s acreage from getting into my engine compartment. It has worked well for me, was super inexpensive, and easy to install.
- Note: The easy fixes like Irish Spring soap, rope lights on the ground under the RV, mothballs, dryer sheets, and the like don’t work. However, peppermint oil on cotton balls seems to be successful.
What if it’s too late?
If you begin to hear rodent sounds at night, find droppings, get a whiff of a nasty odor, or heaven forbid, actually see a packrat it’s time to take immediate action before they begin to multiply.
How To Get Rid of Packrats
These are my tips on how to get rid of packrats.
- Clean up whatever you find thoroughly. Packrats urinate in their nests to solidify the structure.
- Double-check to ensure you have all possible entry points plugged.
- Place old-fashioned snap rat traps baited with peanut butter in strategic locations and check them frequently. For your cars and trucks, place traps on top of the tires. They have to climb the tire to get to the engine compartment. I understand the desire to use humane traps but if it comes to the rat or my wiring, you’re going down rat!
- Inspect wherever possible to find any wire damage.
- Keeping your hood up will help also as they like dark places to nest and sleep.
We had mice chew through a wiring harness in the Honda we towed behind our motorhome a few years ago. Fortunately, the damage was only about $600.
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