Trail Camera Captures Rare Allegheny Woodrat in West Virginia

Allegheny woodrat
An Allegheny woodrat. | Alan Cressler

An Allegheny woodrat is a rare sight even in its natural habitat among the Appalachian Mountains but a trail camera belonging to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service was lucky enough to capture one last month.

The Allegheny woodrat is deemed a “sensitive species” meaning the Forest Service is concerned about the rodent’s population viability as its number slowly declines with 100,000 currently estimated to be in the wild.

This particular woodrat was captured in Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia and is believed to be about 17 inches long, roughly the size of a squirrel. The elusive rodent typically resides in rock outcrops, boulder fields, and even abandoned mines. They can be found from Tennessee up to southern New York.

“We were thrilled to get footage of this elusive creature, which dwells primarily in hardwood forests with plenty of rocks and boulders,” writes the U.S. Forest Service on Facebook.

“Despite their name and large size, Allegheny woodrats are more closely related to mice. Sadly, there are only an estimated 100,000 left in the wild.

“Although there‚Äôs still some speculation as to why their population is declining, many scientists blame the gypsy moth, which harms acorn-bearing oak trees (an important food source for Allegheny woodrats) and habitat degradation.”

The footage, filmed on March 12, is significant because Allegheny woodrats were thought to be extinct in West Virginia after not being spotted for 20 years until specimens were discovered in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in 2022.

Prior to that revelation, officials were sure that the rodents had gone extinct in the area and other parts of the Appalachian mountain range.

The National Park Service (NPS) says the Allegheny woodrat has a global conservation status of G3, meaning it is “at moderate risk of extinction of elimination due to restricted range, relatively few populations, recent and widespread declines, or other factors.”

“The Allegheny woodrat has experienced large population declines and even gone locally extinct over several parts of its native Appalachian range,” the NPS says.

Image credits: Feature image by Alan Cressler.