“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.
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.”
Bushy-tailed Woodrat, by madlyinlovewithlife; © 2011 madlyinlovewithlife
Mount Indefatigable, by madlyinlovewithlife; © 2011 madlyinlovewithlife
On Top of the World, by BJC; © 2011 (used with permission)