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Joshua Tree National Park > Nature Trail > Indian Cove

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Instead of burrowing underground, the Desert Pack Rat may build mounds of vegetation under bushes or pile up a fortress of cactus in rock crevices for a nest. The shape of the nest always looks like a pile of rubbish.

Pack rats and cholla serve each other well in the desert. The rodents bite off the stems of cactus to eat and carry them off to build thier nests. If they drop a stem in favor of some other object (typical behavior for a pack or trade rat), the cactus section often sprouts into a new plant.

Nests made from the spiny cactus stems protect pack rats from coyotes, bobcats and other predators. Evaporation from the fleshy cactus stems provides air conditioning.

You should see evidence of several pack rat nests along the trail but be aware that those in rock piles may conceal a snake escaping the desert heat.

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Mojave rattlesnake
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Pack rat hole in rockpile
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