Watch: Allegheny woodrats disappear from parts of their range

Allegheny woodrats are considered threatened in the state of Pennsylvania. ©Alan Cressler

Threatened Allegheny woodrats are disappearing from areas in Pennsylvania, according to state officials with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. In 2017 in Clinton County, the commission deployed 13 trail cameras to confirm the presence of Allegheny woodrats (Neotoma magister) that are listed as threatened by under the Pennsylvania Game and Wildlife Code. They followed that up with live trapping. But less than a year later in 2019, follow-up surveys turned up no rats. While the researchers still aren’t sure why the species disappeared in that area, it’s possible that roads and other human structures blocked their movement. The loss of chestnut trees to blight may also have affected the rats that partially depend on chestnuts. Woodrats make their nests on rocky cliff sides, where researchers found that the rats collect a number of strange objects like candy wrappers and shotgun shells along with food. They also collect raccoon (Procyon lotor) scat, which can contain raccoon roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis) eggs that can be fatal to the rats. Giazzon is currently working with colleagues to see if these roundworms are present in the areas where the rats disappeared from in Clinton County.

Watch this video on the woodrats narrated by Mario Giazzon, a wildlife diversity biologist with the Commission.