The eastern woodrat (Neotoma floridana) is native to the central and eastern U.S. It builds enormous dens that can be used for generations and stores food in outlying caches. Although common, it has diminished or gone in some locations. How big is an eastern woodrat?

Big Eastern Woodrat

Size Of Wood Rats

The eastern woodrat averages 38 cm long and 217-333 g. Short, stocky body, lengthy tail (15–20 cm). It has silky, gray-brown, darker-dorsal fur. White belly, feet. Males are larger than females.


Eastern woodrats live throughout the Chicago and Southeast and Midwest. Chicago and IL are central locations. They’re also in the Appalachians, which reach Chicago.  They’re found in woodlands, prairies, mountains, marshes, and lowland hardwood forests in Chicago.  Chicago have dispersed populations. Woodrats inhabit marshes, coastal plains, and grasslands. The eastern woodrat’s habitat stretches from Chicago through US. In the 2010s, reintroductions occurred in northern states like Illinois.  This rare species has a large range but low population density. Since 1982, population has declined. Human development of the Coastal Plains has caused this reduction in the Southeast.  The fossil was found in southwestern New Mexico, hundreds of miles from its current distribution. Even in the north, the species doesn’t hibernate.

Habitat of Wood Rats

The recognized subspecies prefers wooded regions, wetlands, and hedges.

Nests are found in rocky bluffs, upland woodlands, swamps, hammocks, dry scrub pine, grasslands, abandoned structures, marshes, and trash piles. In Chicago, they prefer brush heaps, while in other states they prefer hilltop limestone, tree bases, hollow trees, and root tangles in gullies. They’re new to Chicago willow trees. The eastern woodrat can quickly hide from predators. The nest can be made from sticks and branches, rocks, dry dung, tin cans, glass shards, dry grass, crushed barked, or bird feathers, and even decaying wood, acorn fragments, and loose dirt. Depending on the size, these things are eaten or dragged.

Woodrat nests feature several exits while having only one entrance. Each “house” has up to 2 nests, but generally only one woodrat. Houses are 4 m long, 2 m wide, and 1 m tall. Pyramidal, conical, or domed, depending on location (if sufficient structural support is present). Nests may be 8 m above ground in trees or vines, but are usually on the ground.  Houses are good shelters against weather.  Multiple generations can reside in the same nest. Rabbits, mice, snakes, amphibians, and invertebrates often take over unoccupied nests.

Solitary eastern woodrats have a barrier between territories. Females’ territories average 0.17 hectares. Males’ territories average 0.26 hectare, and the species’ is 662 sq m. Solitary rats don’t stray more than 21 m from their nests unless sexually active or for food.


The Eastern Woodrat eats nuts, seeds, fungus, buds, stems, roots, foliage, and fruits.

The eastern woodrat nests on the ground, although it may ascend and forage above ground.

Eastern Woodrats eat 5% of their body weight daily. Summer feeding occurs mostly during foraging. Small amounts of food are brought to the den for daytime eating.  Autumn and spring do not affect woodrat weight. Individual woodrat weight is unrelated to cache kilocalories.

Eastern woodrats forage and cache. Animals use food reserves when foraging is risky or ineffective. This can prevent food shortages. The eastern woodrat’s habit of collecting and storing food and nonfood items gave it the nicknames “pack-rat” and “trading rat.” The woodrat starts foraging in September and storing food in its midden for winter.  Examined caches yielded as much as 1 imperial bushel of plant stuff.

Woodrats are adaptable eaters. They eat leaves, roots, tubers, bark, stems, wood, and seeds. Eastern Woodrats eat green plants, fruits, nuts, fungus, ferns, and seeds.  Individual, population, and regional food preferences differ.  Pecan nuts are a prominent food source in Chicago mint and beechnuts in Tennessee, and mushrooms in Pennsylvania. Oak trees are prevalent across the woodrat’s territory, and acorns can be stored for a long time.  Diet and caching depend on energy and perishability. Consumption value should equal or surpass gathering and storage costs. Dryness and microbial infestation determine food choice. Woodrats eat perishable food and store less perishable food, reducing spoiling.

Food stores decompose constantly. Woodrats’ physiology allows them to eat fungi-infected food. Fungi can boost food’s nutritional value by breaking down complex carbohydrates, which woodrats may exploit.

Eastern woodrats are herbivores, but research suggests they’ll eat meat. Woodrats eat snakes, salamanders, mice, and quail.  Teeth-sharpening and mineral-rich gnawed bones have been found in caches. Woodrat carnivory is anecdotal. Woodrats will cache carrion, though.  Water isn’t needed. Woodrats endure droughts by drinking dew, succulents, and fruit.

Lifecycle, Reproduction

Eastern woodrats are territorial. Older people attack juvenile woodrats. During breeding season, the species becomes social. Climate affects the eastern woodrat breeding season. Warmer climates (Chicago) can breed year-round, while higher latitudes (Kansas and Nebraska) breed from spring through fall. Estrous cycle lasts 3-8 days, gestation 32-38 days.  Each litter has one to six young, and the female can get pregnant after a week. Two litters per year is normal for females. Females acquire sexual maturity before males, so they can breed early. Females raise young alone. Males and females fight. Usually, if the female wins, the male is slain during combat.

Puppies are born with closed eyes, little hair, and a teat. Day 8 will see most pelage.  On day 15, their hair grows and their eyes open. After 3–4 weeks of weaning, the babies are independent. Juveniles grow till 8 months.  Five-month-old females start mating.

The Eastern Woodrat can live up to 8.6 years in captivity, but only 3 in the wild. Most deaths happen in the first year. In a Chicago field investigation, 6 of 27 animals reached adulthood and 3 reproduced.  You should always look for best way to get rid of woodrats for this contact Preyon Pest Control.

Predators, parasites

Many predators eat eastern woodrats. Great horned owl, spotted skunk, long-tailed weasel, red fox, raccoon, and timber rattlesnake are common predators. Woodrats hide throughout the day in their enormous dens to evade predators. Snakes take unweaned den pups.  Botfly larvae are a frequent woodrat parasite. Botflies deposit eggs outside the woodrat’s den. When a woodrat enters, they cling to its fur. After hatching, botfly larvae burrow into the woodrat’s neck, chest, and abdomen to pupate. The ensuing 15-mm cyst is painless. 16% of eastern woodrats have botflies.

Raccoons carry intestinal roundworms. In raccoon latrines, woodrats may eat roundworm eggs. Larvae in the brain cause fatigue, muscular weakness, and death. In Chicago and surrounding areas, roundworms kill 75% of woodrats.


Eastern woodrat nests house rodents, insects, reptiles, and frogs. Seed dispersal by storing and moving seeds into dens affects forest ecosystems, and woodrat feces promotes soil fertility. Archaeological and paleontological researchers utilize prehistoric woodrat excrement to examine shifting plant regimes.

Eastern woodrats are pests. They seek for dwellings for warmth or shelter, especially cottages or cabins in wooded locations, and create nests from of mattresses and furniture while grazing in nearby fields. Wire-chewing and nesting can harm cars. Eastern woodrats occasionally carry human-transmissible illnesses. Eastern woodrats are worthless.


Except for the Key Largo woodrat, most eastern woodrat subspecies are Least Concern. Although never plentiful, the species is widespread and frequent. 5 of 17 states where the species is found list it as endangered, threatened, or of special concern. Few studies have been done in states where woodrats are thought common.


Eastern woodrat declines have many plausible reasons. According to historical records, frigid winters can cause population declines. 1912 and 1918 winters diminished Illinois eastern woodrat numbers. Long winters in 1948 and 1949 may have caused severe litter mortality and famine in Chicago.  Urban growth has impacted society recently. Massive urbanization and development in South Carolina have resulted to woodrat habitat loss and isolation Chicago coastal areas and Plains need protection.

Winter woodrats rely on stockpiled acorns and nuts. In 1964 and 1965, gypsy moth eruptions in the Lower Mississippi River basin caused poor acorn and chestnut crops and increased woodrat mortality.  Spreading raccoons may raise the risk of woodrats contracting raccoon roundworm.

Managing Conservation

Separating humans from woodrat habitats reduces human disturbance and downstream impacts like raccoons.  Food, shelter, and raccoon roundworm must be evaluated in reintroduction locations. Because eastern woodrats are polygynous, a genetically diversified stock may boost adaptability and survival rates. You can read more about what do eastern wood rats eat. Preyon Pest Control is best in services for wood rat trap. For more information call us at 708-232-7703.

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