Friday, November 19, 2010

Rats, Mice, & Snakes: Geology

The Owyhee River Canyon is being pulled apart. The canyon is 2000 feet deep, and the sides of the canyon are falling toward the river. Deep rock slides are everywhere. Rocks falling from the top pile up on each other creating vast labyrinth of hollow spaces in the rock slopes. All these spaces between the rocks are ideal habitats for rats, mice, and snakes. If a miner is going to live here, he is going to live with these animals.

The rats are everywhere, and of course feel right at home in a miner’s cabin, built into a rock wall. There are three such “cabins” in the Morrisonite area, and I have lived in two of them. All of the cabins have resident rats. If these rats were to be exterminated from the cabins, in a bout two days, there would be more to take their place.

This would not necessarily be much of a concern if it were not for the fact that the rats are up all night and sleep during the day, while miners work hard all day and like to sleep at night. There is a small conflict here. The following series of blogs describe some encounters with rats, mice, and snakes while living at and mining the Morrisonite Jasper.

Desert Woodrats: Genus Neotoma
These rats are commonly called “Pack Rats” because they collect various objects and bits of material to deposit, or use in the construction of their nests. They are especially fond of small, bright, shiny objects which they can confiscate. It is a popular superstition that the woodrat is a fair businessman who appropriates something but leaves a replacement of equal value. The rat may see something that is more attractive than what he has, so he puts down the object he is carrying and carries off the other. The rats that live in the Morrisonite area are not fair, considerate, or quiet.


  1. Thanks for the great pictures and info about your mining adventures. I am looking forward to more. Those little rats are cute!

  2. Hey Gene,
    What time of the year did you usually start mining out there. It gets very hot and very cold out there in the desert.

  3. The best time to mine was from the middle of May to the middle of June. This is usually the time of year I worked -- typically for four to six weeks. The days are long, and after the middle of June it can start to get hot in the canyon.