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Species Description

Eastern Woodrat

Neotoma floridana


Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Muridae

Description

Grayish brown fur on the back, lighter fur on the sides. White throat, belly, and feet. Hair-covered tail, black above and white below. The Eastern Wood Rat is a large rodent, 36 - 43 cm (14.2 - 16.9 in) in length. The Eastern Wood Rat has large rounded ears and bulging black eyes.

Life Cycle

The Eastern Wood Rat may produce 2 - 3 litters a year in the southern portions of its range. After a gestation period (pregnancy) averaging 35 days, a litter of 1 - 6 young is born. The young attach themselves to the female's teats and cling so tightly that they are dragged along when the female leaves her nest. Young Wood Rats are weaned in 3 - 4 weeks and reach adult size in 8 months.

Natural History

A Wood Rat's nest is built under a pile of sticks, twigs, leaves, bark, bones, small rocks, dried grasses, bits of cactus, or virtually whatever else is available in its environment. People have been known to "lose" jewelry, watches, and other shiny objects from campsites and cabins near Wood Rat nests. The nest is large and conspicuous, generally 0.6 - 0.9 m (2 - 3 ft) across and 0.6 m (2 ft) high. It may be built around a rock ledge or pile, at the base of or in a tree, in a fallen log, and in or under an abandoned automobile, piece of furniture, or house. The nest may be used by several generations of Wood Rats. The nest has several compartments, including a nest chamber lined with shredded bark and soft material which is used for shelter and for rearing young. Other chambers are used for storing food and for feeding. The Eastern Wood Rat is mainly nocturnal when it forages for food. It eats the leaves of trees and shrubs, grasses, fruits, berries, nuts, tubers, mushrooms, and plant buds. Predators of the Eastern Wood Rat include snakes, skunks, the Coyote, foxes, hawks, and owls.

Range

The Eastern Wood Rat occurs throughout all of Georgia but a pie - shaped wedge in the Piedmont Region of northeastern Georgia. Elsewhere in the United States, the Eastern Wood Rat ranges from Connecticut west to eastern Colorado, south to Texas, and east to Florida. It is absent from the Piedmont of Georgia and South Carolina and the Coastal Plain from North Carolina to Maryland.

Conservation Status

The Eastern Wood Rat is generally common within its range.

Similar Species

The Eastern Wood Rat can be easily distinguished from the non-native rats (the Norway Rat and the Black Rat) by the non-native rats' naked, scaly tail. The Eastern Wood Rat also has larger ears and white feet.