Allegheny woodrats have soft fur that is brown or brownish-gray on their back. Their underside is white from their throat and all the way back. Their tail has fur too, which is lighter on the bottom. They have long whiskers on their faces. Adults weigh 203 to 444 g and are 311 to 451 mm long. Young Allegheny woodrats have gray fur that becomes browner as they get older. (Castleberry and Laerm, 2008; Castleberry, et al., 2006; Kays and Wilson, 2002; Linzey, 1998)
Allegheny woodrats live in the Appalachian Mountains of the United States. They are mostly found in West Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, in an area called the Allegheny Cumberland Plateau. (Anthony, 1928; Castleberry and Laerm, 2008; Castleberry, et al., 2006; Schwartz and Odum, 1957)
Allegheny woodrats make their home on steep rocky cliffs, rocky ledges, and in crevices between rocks. They usually live above 640 m in elevation, though they used to live at lower elevations than they do now. Allegheny woodrats also live in areas that are thick with plants. They get water when it collects on the ground from the rain and also from nearby streams. (Balcom and Yahner, 1996; Castleberry and Laerm, 2008; Castleberry, et al., 2002a; Castleberry, et al., 2006)
When courting, males and females box like kangaroos, which can get violent. They stand on their hind legs and brace themselves with their tail while hitting each other with their front paws. Allegheny woodrats have just one mate for the season, but scientists don't know if they keep their mates year-round or not. (Poole, 1940)
Most Allegheny woodrats breed from March to October. If winters are mild or there is lots of food, they may breed year-round. Females have 1 to 2 pups the first year they give birth. After the first year, they have 3 pups each time they give birth, which is 2 to 3 times a year. When they are born, pups are blind and deaf. They have pink skin and no hair. They weigh 14 to 17 g, but usually about 15. The pups drink their mothers milk for 21 days, and aftwerwards are able to open their eyes and eat solid food. At this point, they can feed themselves, but may stay around the nest for a few more weeks. They are independent after 28 to 60 days, and can have their own young when they are 3 to 4 months old. (Castleberry and Laerm, 2008; Castleberry, et al., 2006; Linzey, 1998; Manjerovic, et al., 2009; Mengak, 2002; Poole, 1940)
Most of the time and effort parents put in to raising the young happens before they are born. Females make nests from tree bark, rope, yarn, grasses, and sometimes feathers. The nests look like birds' nests. The more coarse materials are on the outside and the softer materials are on the inside. Before the young are born, parents gather and store up food for the mother and the pups. Males help gather food, but don't contribute much to caring for the pups. When the pups are born, they are completely dependent on their mother for warmth, food, protection, and cleanliness. When eating food from their mother's store, pups learn what they should eat. (Poole, 1940)
Allegheny woodrats are active at night, and usually spend time by themselves. They have a habit of collecting shiny and colorful objects, including human items such as china dishes and spoons. When taking something for their collection, they occasionally leave something behind, like a pine cone, pebble, or nut. Allegheny woodrats collect food and store it for later, in a spot called a cache. Caches are made out of sticks. Allegheny woodrats are surprisingly clean, and have one specific spot away from the nest for body waste. This spot is usually a place with good air flow like a flat or dented rock. (Castleberry, et al., 2006; Linzey, 1998; Poole, 1940)
Allegheny woodrats don't have a specific territory they defend. In the same day, they travel in an area of 180 to 6,500 sq m looking for food. The average is 2,060 sq m for one day. (Castleberry, et al., 2006; Linzey, 1998)
Allegheny woodrats have outstanding senses of hearing, sight, touch, and smell. They have big ears that can tell what direction a sound came from. Their large eyes help them see well in the dark. Their close relatives eastern woodrats can see red lights that many other animals cannot, and Allegheny woodrats probably can too. They have very long whiskers compared to other rodents. The longest whisker found was 9 cm long. Their whiskers allow them to feel their surroundings and detect movements nearby, so they can sense danger. Whiskers also help them find their way in caves and crevasses. During the breeding season, Allegheny woodrats use long scent glands on the sides of their stomachs to communicate their location to possible mates. The glands give off an oily, smelly liquid, and they drag their bodies across the ground to spread the scent. (Poole, 1940; Zervanos and Davis, 1968)
Allegheny woodrats eat mostly plants like berries, fruits, and seeds. They sometimes eat bats and insects as well. They eat a lot of mushrooms, which can make up 12% of their food. The amount of mushrooms they eat changes by location. They also eat a lot of acorns because they are high in protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins. (Castleberry, et al., 2002b; Mengak and Laerm, 2008; Poole, 1940)
Most of the predators of Allegheny woodrats are large and also active at night. Their predators include great horned owls, bobcats, striped skunks, gray foxes, eastern spotted skunks, long tailed weasles and other snakes and owls. Allegheny woodrats' fur blends in with the forest floor, which hides them from predators while they are out looking for food. (Linzey, 1998; Poole, 1940)
Because Allegheny woodrats store food, they spread seeds and mushroom spores. They are hosts to many types of fleas, including Orchopeas sexdentatus pennsylvanicus and Epitedia cavernicola, mites, ticks such as Ixodes woodi, Dermacentor variabilis, and Ixodes augustus, roundworms called Baylisascaris procyonis and Baylisascaris proaberrant, and botflies. Their biggest threat is nematodes, whose eggs are found in raccoon feces. Allegheny woodrats collect raccoon feces and become infected with this disease, which they can die from. These parasites are more likely to kill them off in large numbers than predators are. (Castleberry and Laerm, 2008; Linzey, 1998; Parker, et al., 2009; Poole, 1940)
In captivity, Allegheny woodrats eat many foods that are found on farms and in gardens. For example, they eat apples, cabbage, carrots, celery, grapes, tomatoes, corn, wheat, wild rice stalks, and white potatoes. They also eat these items on farmland in their habitat. (Poole, 1940)
Allegheny woodrats are not known to have any positive impact on humans. (Whitaker Jr. and Hamilton Jr., 1998)
Allegheny woodrats are listed as "vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List. Within the United States, their status varies by state. In Kentucky, their numbers are stable. However, in Alabama, Virginia, and other states, they are threatened or vulnerable. In North Carolina, they are endangered. The decline in their numbers might be related to the extinction of American chestnut and decline in the number of oak trees. They are also affected by loss of available habitat. (Castleberry and Laerm, 2008; Castleberry, et al., 2006)
Lindsey Stanesa (author), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, Gail McCormick (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff, Catherine Kent (editor), Special Projects.
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
uses sound to communicate
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.
animals that generate their own body heat through metabolic processes.
parental care is carried out by females
an animal that mainly eats leaves.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
an animal that mainly eats fruit
an animal that mainly eats seeds
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
Having one mate at a time.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.
an animal that mainly eats fungus
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
places a food item in a special place to be eaten later. Also called "hoarding"
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
breeding takes place throughout the year
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