Frederick County is home to small colonies of the Allegheny Woodrat (Neotoma magister), a Maryland Endangered Species. The Woodrat looks like a large white footed mouse with large prominent ears and can grow as large as a gray squirrel, weighing about 1 lb. at maturity. With a lifespan of about 2 to 4 years, wood rats are not the prolific breeders other rodents are, birthing only one small liter per season.
The Allegheny Woodrat is one of three species of wood rats found in Eastern United States; the other two are the Eastern Woodrat and Florida Woodrat. All live in the wild and should not be confused with the Norway rat, which is considered to be vermin. The Allegheny Woodrat is nocturnal and has a small home range around rock outcrops in ridges, cliffs, and talus slopes, constructing a series of underground tunnels and never straying very far from its nest. Woodrat colonies have communal latrines where fecal matter is deposited. The woodrat is a kind of “packrat,” collecting and storing non-food items such as feathers, bone, fur, bottle caps, shell casings, and coins near their dens. Wood rats have been known to place dried leaves around their dens to act as an alarm to detect would-be predators. The Allegheny Woodrat is threatened or endangered throughout most of its range. Reasons for the decrease in populations include harsh winters, poor acorn crops, human disturbances, and parasitic roundworms that are carried by raccoons. Coyotes, bobcat, raccoon, owls, hawks, and large snakes are the dominant predators of wood rats.
Article by FCFCDB
Nature Note for 2/21/2016