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Eastern Woodrat

New Jersey historically had woodrats distributed throughout the northern third of the state. Extensive field work by the Endangered and Nongame Species Program in the late 80's and early 90's confirmed the disappearance of the woodrat from all its historic ranges in New Jersey except for one location, the Palisades in Bergen County. Today, this population defines the northern and eastern limit of the eastern woodrat's range in North America.

The ENSP continued to monitor the state's last remaining eastern woodrat population at the Palisades Interstate Park in Bergen County. This population has been sampled periodically through live trapping the animals which are measured, marked and released. The live trap sampling is done in the fall when the population is at its highest level in the annual cycle.

Live trapping in October of 1999 yielded the most individual woodrats ever captured at the site during a 2 night trapping session. Twenty-four woodrats were captured in 2 nights of trapping. Normally, between 10 and 17 woodrats are caught in a 2 night trapping session. The results of the trapping indicate the population at the Palisades appears to be not only stable, but expanding. One animal was captured almost 2 miles south of the normal population centers suggesting the population may have expanded in recent years.

Our Palisades population appears to be doing well despite the documented decline of populations throughout the northeastern portion of their range. The decline has been attributed, at least in part, to lethal infections of the parasite, raccoon roundworm. A previous study of the raccoons at the Palisades revealed infection rates among raccoons to be relatively low compared to other areas where woodrats have disappeared. In addition to monitoring the population of woodrats we have been sampling their habitat for the presence of raccoon scats for the past 2 years. The occurrence of scats has been minimal indicating a relatively small raccoon population. In addition, the scats that were found were analyzed and did not contain roundworm eggs.

Additional work in year 2000 will concentrate on identifying the northern and southern limit of woodrat occurrence on the Palisades in an attempt to document the extent of the population expansion.

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