National Park Service

Cumberland Piedmont Network (CUPN)

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Allegheny Woodrat Monitoring

Allegheny woodrat (Neotoma magister) at nest Allegheny woodrat (Neotoma magister) at nest

Allegheny Woodrat Resource Briefs

CUPN Monitoring Protocol and Standard Operating Procedures

For more information contact: Steven Thomas


Importance/Issues

Allegheny woodrats (Neotoma magister) are considered a "species of concern" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a G3/G4 species by the Natural Heritage Program, and occur on more state endangered and threatened species lists than does any other rodent species in the United States.

Woodrats are important to the nutrient-poor cave ecosystem because they import organic material which supports a specialized cave invertebrate community.

They are considered good indicators of the condition of a park's surface and cave ecosystems because they respond to changes in resource conditions.

This species is relatively common, occurring in many caves on Mammoth Cave National Park.

Specific threats to woodrats at the park include cave entrance modification, direct visitor disturbance, cave lighting impacts, in-cave modifications, raccoon roundworm parasite (lethal to woodrats), impacts to food resources [from things such as pests/pathogens, ozone, acid deposition, and fire], habitat fragmentation/loss (adjacent land use), and increases in predators, like feral cats, skunks, and owls on the park

Monitoring Objectives

Woodrat in live trap with equipment used for monitoring Woodrat in live trap with equipment used for monitoring
  1. Establish current use-status of "managed" caves by Allegheny woodrats in the park.
  2. Determine current status of Allegheny woodrats using "unmanaged" caves in the park.
  3. Determine long-term trends in Allegheny woodrat abundance, distribution and population structure in "unmanaged" caves in the park

Management Applications

Cave management and visitor activity may impact or inhibit woodrat access into and use of caves through imposition of physical barriers, (such as cave doors), and various disturbance factors (such as noise, and lighting, etc.).

Woodrats, as surface foragers feeding on a wide variety of plant materials and parts (e.g., fruit, nuts and seeds, fungi, leaves, etc.) also relate to the terrestrial ecosystem, and may reflect larger-scale changes in vegetation communities through long-term changes in population performance and structure. Woodrat demographic parameters will be established and changes tracked over time to understand the baseline dynamics of the native woodrat populations on the park.

Woodrat use of "managed" caves on the park will be determined and trends in "managed" cave use monitored over time in order to understand how management activities may affect woodrat cave use.

Knowing the difference in woodrat population trends between "managed" and "natural" caves will enable ecologists to understand how management actions can impact woodrat population dynamics on the park.

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Status & Trends


Woodrat use of nine managed caves (2005 - 2008)

Relative abundance and population estimate at 50 umanaged caves(2005 - 2008)

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster