The Tale of the Rat in the TruckMy campsite beside Square Lake was on an incline. This allowed me to look up from my book and notice a varmint jumping up into the motor compartment of my truck. Thinking it was just another squirrel, I did not make much of it. Then I heard scrunching noises and the critter dropped to the ground and foraged around. I could see it was not a squirrel. It moved like a rat and had the body of a rat, but the head of a squirrel. The tail was much less furry that a squirrels, but more than a rats. I had no idea what this could be.
After a moment it jumped back up into the under-carriage. I had visions of the rodent gnawing on wires, disabling the vehicle and leaving me stranded 20 klicks out in the boonies. I went up to the truck and beat on the hood and quarter panels, but he continued to scamper around under there. I opened the hood and discovered the beginnings of a nest on top of the battery. The bugger had retreated up behind the wheel well and was making alarming munching noises near the dashboard!
Well, I had to get him out of there, so I lit a fire just below the truck, added green fir boughs and fanned the smoke up under the truck. Smoke was creeping out of every crack and orifice on the vehicle. The smoke was burning my eyes and I knew my opponent would be in even worse shape. I could hear frantic scampering under the hood. But, he would not leave his new home.
I had no tools with me, or I would have started to dismantle the truck. There was nothing I could think of to do to get him out of there. His intermittent scraping had me considering packing up and leaving. Then I thought of the bear spray.
There was a small crack between the bumper and the fender where he would stop and poke his snout out every once in a while. So I snuck up to the truck and aligned the nozzle of the bear spray with the crack. Soon I heard the patter of small feet. Then dust dropped from the fender well as he came over the hump. Then whiskers popped out of the crack and I blasted him. He ran a few steps then all was quiet.
I got a bit of the spray on my nostril and it burned like hell. I then realised that the bear spray may have killed him. Now I was worried he had died in there and would start to smell. How many hundreds of dollars was it going to cost to have the quarter panel removed to get at the rotting body?
The next day, once again I heard rustling and scraping from under the hood. OK, lets go for a ride. I took everything out of the truck (to reduce damage). Drove up to the logging road and booted it, aiming for all the potholes. The truck was bouncing and crashing and I was getting thrown around quite a bit. I came to a landing (area used for log sorting), parked and went for a walk. That had to convince him his new home is not suitable and he would leave.
When I got back, I snuck up to the truck and could still hear him in there, Aaarrgggg!
Back down the road at top speed, another stop and another walk. This time when I got back I heard nothing and not a peep since. Did he leave? Is he dead and rotting in the quarter panel? Only time will tell. I'll know when I smell a rat . . . rotting.
I've since learned that it was probably a bushy-tailed woodrat (Neotoma cinerea)