Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin

Allegheny Woodrat

Neotoma magister


The Allegheny woodrat has soft, agouti brown-gray fur that is gray in juveniles and gradually becomes more brown as the rat matures. The throat, feet and underside of the belly are covered in white fur while the tail is bi-colored with lighter fur on the ventral side and darker fur on the dorsal side. This species has a head similar to a mouse (not very pointed) and has very long whiskers.


This species can be found in the United States, along the Appalachian Mountains. Populations are dense on the Allegheny Cumberland Plateau of West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. Allegheny woodrats prefer to inhabit steep rocky cliffs and ledges near diverse vegetation.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

Allegheny woodrats consume mostly plant material such as berries, fruits, and seeds. Acorns and mushrooms are very important food sources for these woodrats. Acorns provide high source of protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins.  Fungus may make up to  12% of the Allegheny woodrat’s diet during the peak of the mushroom season. Occasionally woodrats will also consume bats and insects.


This species breeds between March and October, but some populations will breed year-round during mild winters. Male and female Alleghany woodrats attract a mate by standing on their hind legs, balancing with their tail and hit each other with their paws, “boxing” like kangaroos. These boxing matches between males and females can become violent. Female woodrats build nests of fibrous materials such as shredded bark, rope, grasses and feathers. Females produce 2 to 3 litters per year having 1-4 pups per litter with a gestation period of 30-36 days. Pups are weaned between 17 and 21 days after birth and become independent between 28-60 days. Allegheny woodrats reach sexual maturity at about 3-4 months.

Months and Times of Activity

Allegheny woodrats are nocturnal animals, being active mostly at night. These animals are also solitary, coming together only for breeding and rearing young.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

•    Allegheny woodrats are listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List, but Allegheny woodrat population vitality varies by state.
•    Allegheny woodrats like to collect shiny and colorful objects. Sometimes the rats will leave behind an item such as a pebble or nut, in place of what they have taken.
•    The Allegheny woodrat is unique because it has a maxillow vomerine notch in the skull structure, which is absent in the eastern woodrat.
•    Newborn Allegheny woodrats do not have straight incisors (teeth), instead the top two meet the bottom two by forming a diamond shape. The incisors then straighten after 21 days.
•    Children’s book featuring this animal: Cinderella’s Rat by Susan Meddaugh


 Stanesa, L. 2012. "Neotoma magister" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 04, 2014 at