Allegheny woodrats return to Harpers Ferry for 1st time in 20 years

Allegheny woodrats have been documented in Harpers Ferry National Historic Park in West Virginia, the first time the rodents have been seen in the area in 20 years.

Allegheny woodrats were captured, tagged and released in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park this summer. (K. Black/Radford University)

Wildlife biologists found both adults and juvenile woodrats at the park. While not endangered at the federal level, the Allegheny woodrat has seen significant population decline and a reduced habitat range.

“This rediscovery is an important reminder of the value of protecting natural places that provide crucial habitats for plants and wildlife,” said Nicole Keefner, a biological science technician at Harpers Ferry NHP.

The Allegheny woodrat survey was conducted as part of an ongoing research collaboration involving the National Park Service, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, and Radford University. The woodrats surveyed were tagged for future tracking and monitoring to support conservation efforts.

“Given the Allegheny woodrat’s rarity across their historical range, collaborative efforts like this can go a long way in conserving the species,” said Karen Powers, a professor of biology at Radford University.

The Allegheny woodrat, which is actually more closely related to mice than true rats, lives in rocky areas near wooded areas. This packrat collects food such as seeds and nuts as well as inedible items — including feathers, bones, coins and buttons. They also support ecological health by spreading seeds across forests, promoting plant survival and diversity.

Vivian Medithi

Vivian Medithi is digital writer/editor. Vivian has been with WTOP since 2019.

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