If you google “pack rat”, the greater majority of hits are sites of extermination companies. Pack rats get a bad rap for being thieves, vandals and, not least, rodents.
But they have a good side, too – several even. The treasures they amass in their nests – called ‘middens‘ – sometimes over periods of thousands of years, are an archive of the history of the land we now call ours. They are an indispensable link in the food chain, not only as prey animals themsleves, but also because their middens are home to many insects that provide sustenance to birds, bats and lizards.
For reasons such as these and because they are darn cute and kids love them, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is planning an exhibit dedicated to them, to be opened in 2018. An unique feature of the project, called ‘Hidden in the Midden‘, is that ASDM is involving the public directly in the design. Folks who want to contribute their ideas can call ASDM’s info line at 520-883-2702 or email [email protected] for inquiries.
Catherine Bartlett loves pack rats and is also a specialist at ASDM. The Weekly Green spoke with her about the project and the good side of the rodent genus Neotoma.