Rats and Hantavirus in Death Valley or, Willow Goes Hunting

This is only one of the many posts relating to our Death Valley adventure. If you would like to see more of what we did on that trip please visit our main Death Valley page.

Fair Warning: There are pictures of freshly killed rodents in this post. If you feel that sight might upset you please accept our invitation to browse a different post. Thank You.

Admission: I like rats and mice. They are smart, adaptable creatures. I also think they are cute. On one hand I feel sorry and can empathize for those creatures that met their death at the paws and teeth of my girl. They were going about their little lives and along comes this vicious monstrosity and makes the last 10 seconds or so of their lives pretty horrible…and then desecrates the corpses afterwards. That being said, if my gimpy, middle-aged girl can catch you with all the bushes and little hidy holes available you must have been an old and slow or young and dumb rat or mouse and she is doing your species a favor by thinning you weaker members from your herd. You’re welcome.

So, already knowing a bit about the Hantavirus and then reading the info that was offered at the cabin we decided to 1) be careful to not catch it and 2) actively help with the rat eradication policy. There were several rat and mouse traps left on the storage shelves in the cabin. A couple we so old and rotten as to be unusable. A couple of others we fixed and put out into play in both the cabin and the outhouse baited with some Peter Pan peanut better we picked up out of the free pile at the RTR in January. The fact that it is still in decent shape after all this time is proof enough that it is not fit for human consumption and useful only as bait for rats. Sadly, rats don’t even like it as neither trap we placed caught anything nor was the peanut butter bait expertly and non-fatally swiped. We learn something new on our adventures every day. That day the lesson was, if you’re going to eat peanut butter, choose something that rats would like.

Even though the traps were baited and set Willow couldn’t wait and went looking to help all on her own. I called for her and she lifted her head up holding a dead something in her mouth.

willow with her caught rat
You Called Dad? I Did And No Kisses For You For A While.
Willow with her rat
My Girl the Huntress
willow with her dead rat prey at her feet
I Kinda Felt Sorry For the Little Guy But There Is No Shortage Of Rats In The Area

She was thrilled with her prize and paraded it around the cabin for like 30 minutes. She took a break from the dead rat dance to get a drink of water and decided to leave her prize at the doorstep so that all visitors would know that Willow The Huntress was in residence.

dead rat left at the door to the cabin by willow
A Gift For Guests

After her enthusiastic water break she decided that, since no guests had appeared, she might as well reclaim her prize and make totally sure it was a deceased rat by flipping it around for another 10 minutes before plopping down on her pad with it and taking a well deserved break from that earlier excitement.

Willow on her pad with the dead rat under her elbow
Just Making Sure Her Prize Is Secure

So now that Willow had proven that rats were afoot we knew that was probably what it was when we heard some skittering and a whole life & death struggle in the undercarriage of the Tacoma the second night we were there. I must say that it is an unpleasant and disconcerting feeling to be woken up in the early hours by hearing something stalk, chase, catch and kill the squeaking prey and then eat it with all the crunching sounds you are imagining right now as you read this…all within a couple of feet of your head. The next morning we opened up the hood and a guinea pig-sized rat exited my airbox and made an unsuccessful dash for safety. With Willow on guard it did not get far.

big rat
That Thing Was Huuuge (For A Rat)

Taking a look in my airbox I could see that our dear, departed rat friend had decided to take up residence in the airbox and started the nest-building and pooping and peeing in your new house process.

rats nest in my airbox
I Wore Nitrile Gloves and Sprayed a Bleach Solution Before Cleaning out the Nest

This unwelcome visitor would not have been possible had I not performed the so-called “Deck Plate Mod” on the airbox within the first month of owning the Tacoma. This entails cutting a hole in the airbox and fitting a deckplate for a boat in place. When you have the plate removed you have a large hole in the side of your airbox letting WAY more air into the intake then Toyota originally designed for.

Deck Plate Modification
Deck Plate Modification or, To A Rat, A Nice Big Door To A Dry, Clean New House.

Once the ECU has figured out this new mix it compensates and you gain a bit of horsepower as well as noticeable torque without any hit on your gas mileage. The only thing you have to remember to do it screw the deckplate back into place for deep water crossings or, and now we know this, if you plan on spending any amount of time in nesting rat country.

Willow continued her attempts at rat genocide throughout our time at the cabin. I could tell when she was back from a hunt because her snout was all dirty from sticking her nose into holes in the ground.

willow with a dirty nose from sticking it into rat holes
Evidence of Nose To The Ground

During a hunt she gives it her all which means after a hunt she was always completely spent and crashed for about an hour wherever the mood suited her.

willow sleeping on the front step of the cabin in 90 degree heat
Crashed After A Hunt

She only caught one more rat (that I know of) while we were in residence and this one met the same fate as the first two after being taken away from “She-Dog the Destroyer” – being tossed up on a large boulder near the outhouse to be recycled by the crows that frequent the area. Just doing our part to mitigate the disease-ridden vermin in the area.

One thought on “Rats and Hantavirus in Death Valley or, Willow Goes Hunting

  1. Willow's Savior

    Good stuff Willow-bean.
    You are a true warrior and deserve a gold statue erected in your honor.
    Miss you guys.

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