Harrison County Glades

Helping the Allegheny woodrat

Our conservation efforts to protect this curious creature

The Allegheny woodrat is a native animal with a curious personality. Unlike rats found in cities the woodrat is one of the true pack rat species found in North America. It collects whatever it finds interesting and carries it home. They were found in Indiana long before the settlers arrived, but today, they are an endangered species.

“’Woodrat’ is an unfortunate name for such an engaging animal,” says Scott Johnson, the Indiana DNR’s non-game wildlife biologist. “They are clean, inquisitive, and more closely resemble an amiable, oversized mouse. The State has been working with woodrats for over 20 years now. I’ve never taken anyone out on the project who didn’t have a positive attitude toward them after getting a chance to see a woodrat in its natural habitat.”

Between 1991 and 2006 woodrats in Indiana declined by more than 50%. To prevent their total disappearance Purdue University and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, in an effort supported by The Nature Conservancy and private landowners, initiated an Allegheny woodrat recovery program. In 2008, 54 Allegheny woodrats were released in hopes of increasing genetic diversity of the population and to learn more answers to the cause of its decline. Tracking has shown that 75% are still alive and healthy.

In 2011 and 2012, captive-reared woodrats are being released at formerly occupied sites to establish a larger breeding population of woodrats. An experiment in 2012 involves acclimating woodrats to their new environment to optimize their survival by holding the woodrats in temporary pens within their new habitat. TNC volunteers along with Purdue University and Indiana DNR biologists constructed pens, designed to keep young woodrats on site for two weeks after-release.