As stated, I took the rat cave down today. Tentatively and trepidatiously I removed brick by brick until finally there was nothing left but the perimeter walls:

ratz1.jpg

With the able assistance of Susan shining  a flashlight onto the spot where I had deposited them last Friday I’m happy to report that it appears the mother returned to her kids perhaps sometime as early as that afternoon and one by one moved them out to a place far away from me. There was no evidence to suggest they’d perished in fact it was if they’d never been there at all.

I even excavated the leaf litter out of the original cubby hole the mom had made and again, nothing:

 ratz2.jpg

While Susan and I were relieved that my intervention wasn’t a disaster, Ranger took the unveiling a little maternally. She’d watched interestedly as I returned the baby rats to the shelter I built for them and had been noticeably protective of the rat cave in the days that followed, so I think she was even more surprised that the rodents hadn’t stuck around and spent quite a bit of time after the demolition sniffing around and looking a little bummed out.

I’m sorry for your loss Ranger, but way to but a damper on my joy at not discovering six little corpses.