hispid cotton rat

(Sigmodon hispidus virginianus)


This is a large rodent with a total length of up to 365 mm, and a weight of 100-225 grams. The coat is grizzled with blackish or dark brownish hairs, interspersed with buffy or grayish hairs. The sides are only slightly paler while the underparts are usually pale to dark grayish, sometimes washed with buff. The tail is dark, coarsely annulated but only sparsely haired. The breeding season is throughout the year with several litters of 2-7 young being born per year. This species is active at all hours of the day and night, though probably a nocturnal animal and it exhibits swimming behavior but does not swim under water. The fur is not as water repellent as that of the more aquatic marsh rice rat, giving the animal a tendency to sink. Surface and burrow nests are made of woven grasses and range from cup-shaped to hollow ball-shaped structures with a single entrance, which is normally oriented toward the southeast to allow penetration of sunlight during the winter and decrease cooling of the nest by northwest winds. This species is susceptible to both avian and mammalian predation. This species is short lived surviving 3-6 months.


It is found in the southeastern 1/3 of the state except the Eastern Shore. This species is most common in grass dominated habitats, especially field habitats where the vegetation consists of broomsedge, goldenrod and Lespedeza.


This species consumes primarily grasses. There is some seasonal use of insects and fruit.