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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Amberrat on my workbench

It's been a year a half since I banished this wood rat from the shed for messing with my tools, and using the workbench as a latrine.

When we dragged the picnic table and chairs to the shed last Sunday, we were again assaulted by the smell of wood rat piss. The workbench was piled with scattered tools, crisscrossed with rodent tracks, littered with rodent turds, and blotched with dried rodent piss. If the dust could tell a story it was an epic of rodentdom.

Conclusion: another rat and several mice have moved in, or they're making nocturnal visits to reestablish the latrine on my workbench.

I scrubbed it all down with disinfectant, and must comment on the super-glue like tenacity of the piss. It had welded the rat turds in place. I removed all but five, which I left as a monument of sorts.

That night I surfed the web and found Chris Clarke's excellent post about Joshua trees, desert woodrats and solidified wood rat urine -- or amberrat -- which is definitely worth a read.

Then I found Joe Eaton's article on the use of amberrat as trail rations.

It's true. Some starving 49's thought they had found an Indian's cache of peanut brittle in Death Valley, and -- you guessed it -- tried eating it. It was a chunk of amberrat the size of a small pumpkin, which means it had some age on it. Needless to say, the dark inclusions didn't taste like raisins, and when the nausea passed, the party decided to seek vittles elsewhere.

They were lucky they never found out what it was.

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