Scientific Name: Neotoma magister
Classification: Mammalia, Order Rodentia, Family Muridae
Relatives: All woodrats, including its close relative the Florida woodrat (Neotoma floridana)
- Species of Greatest Conservation Need-Tier 4a on the Virginia Wildlife Action Plan
Size: 13 - 17 inches, including a 6-8 inch tail; approximately 0.44 - 1.00 pounds
Life Span: 49 – 58 months in the wild, 48 months in captivity
Habitat: steep rocky cliffs
Diet: Primarily herbivorous, including fungi, bulbs, seeds, and fruit; they occasionally eat carrion.
Distribution: The eastern woodrat is found from the Blue Ridge westward, generally where cliffs, rock slides, or caves are present. This species, throughout their eastern range, are adaptable to various habitats, living in caves and rock slides where available in the mountains, and in the woods and swamps.
This is a medium-sized rodent with a total length of 362-409 mm and a weight of 200-275 grams. This species is grayish brown with a white or grayish belly and has a soft coat, large, black, protuberant eyes, and large and sparsely-haired ears. Its tail is bicolor; white beneath, brown above. Woodrats seldom emit vocalizations, although they may squeal when fighting or injured. They can grate their teeth to make a chattering sound. They often thump their hind feet in response to fear or anger. This species breeds in the spring, summer, and fall, but usually only has 1 litter per year of 2-4 young per litter. Fecundity in the wild is reported to be low. The Woodrat builds a house of sticks, rocks, bones, and debris. A typical house is 1.2 meters in diameter and about 1 meter tall, constructed primarily of twigs and sticks. The house generally contains two or more nests near the center of the structure. This species stores food in compact galleries at the top of the house beginning in September or October. They will also collect and store small strange objects that they find such as bottle caps, bones, coins, shotgun shells or rings. Woodrat houses are utilized by white-footed mice, eastern cottontail and other species of snakes, lizards, and toads.
Last updated: November 28, 2023
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