The winter before last, a rat built a nest in the engine compartment of my tractor in our pole barn. That year I'd got lazy and let my garden plants stand all winter in the garden next to the barn. The nest was full of bean pods, pieces of dried tomatoes, etc. I couldn't blame the rat for coming to such good shelter and food - that was my fault. Unfortunately, it chewed up the electrical wires of the tractor, and that was expensive to fix.
I set two rat traps, and immediately caught a large female Eastern Wood Rat (pack rat). That must have been the only one there because I had no further problem. I felt bad about having to kill it and I was surprised that it wasn't rat-like at all. A very pretty animal, and very clean-looking.
I read up on pack rats, and they usually don't bother people or go into buildings - they prefer to live in the woods. They like shiny things, and they sometimes trade what they have for other objects.
Well, about 3 weeks ago I lost my tractor key. I always keep it on a beam that runs crossways about 7' off the ground on the inside wall of the pole barn - that's so visiting grandkids can't start the tractor. The key was just gone, my wife and I looked everywhere, and fortunately I have a spare key.
Yesterday as I was putting the tractor back in the barn I saw a pack rat running along the same beam where the key had been. Well, I thought, that explains what happened to the key. Not wanting any more chewed wiring, I set the traps again in the barn last night.
This morning one trap was thrown and laying upside-down on the ground. There was blood on the trap, and the TRACTOR KEY was laying right beside the trap!
I think the rat must have been carrying his trophy from three weeks ago when he set off the trap. My wife thinks the rat GAVE THE KEY BACK after getting hurt in the trap. Nah, they couldn't be that smart, could they?
I really hate to hurt, and probably kill, these interesting animals. I keep a lot of equipment in that barn, and I just can't have wire-chewing rats in there. If they're that smart, I'm hoping they'll get the idea and move back to the woods which are only about 100 feet away. They don't need shelter from the cold this time of year.