Many species of wood rats are found throughout North America, with fewer species occurring in the eastern states. They inhabit a variety of habitats from deserts to forest floors. The dusky-footed wood rat (Neotoma fuscipes) is a native resident of Washington, Oregon and Northern California.
Wood rats are most easily discovered by their large nests, built in a bush, inside caves or crevices or against a tree trunk. Wood rats will even build their nests high in a tree. The bulky nests are a pile of miscellaneous debris including sticks and branches, pine cones, rocks, horse or cow dung, shiny objects or anything that catches the wood rat’s eye. The nest can reach six feet or more in height. Often other small species will take up residence in the large, conical “house”.
The feces (scat) are fairly large and are generally plentiful around the nest, often accumulating in heaps.
Dusky-footed wood rats feed chiefly on plant material. Owls, coyotes, foxes and large snakes prey on these nocturnal rodents.
Due to their proclivity to hoard odd objects dusky-footed wood rats are also commonly called packrats and trade rats.
These pictured nests are located near Baum Lake (Lassen County CA) and in a wildlife area on our property (Modoc County CA). Note that one is situated high on the trunk of a downed juniper. I am not certain where the beverage can incorporated into the one nest came from as that nest is over a mile from any houses or roads and is on private property.