||The Mammals of Texas -
Rodentia : Family Muridae : Neotoma
Description. Large rat with long, round,
tapering, scantily haired tail, large ears, and bulging,
black eyes. Upperparts creamy buff to buffy gray,
clearest along sides; underparts and feet white; tail
distinctly bicolor, white below and brownish above.
External measurements average: total length, 369 mm;
tail, 160 mm; hind foot, 40 mm. Weight, 200-350 g.
Distribution in Texas. Eastern one-third
of Texas west to Wichita, Bell, and Edwards counties;
south to Victoria County.
Habits. The wide range occupied
by the eastern woodrat, encompassing habitats ranging
from swamplands along the lower Mississippi River,
through forested uplands, to the arid plains of eastern
Colorado, is reflected in its geographic variation and in
the correlated differences in habits. In the mixed
hammock and river bottom associations in eastern Texas,
these rats do not construct surface nests but rather,
live in burrows at the bases of trees. In the upland post
oak association in east-central Texas, they normally use
underground burrows but occasionally resort to a
combination surface house and underground burrow or a
large surface house built at the base of a tree or
against a fallen log with no associated burrow. In
central Texas (Kerr County) they frequently live in rocky
In localities where underground dens
are the fashion, the rats do not hesitate to take over
burrows dug by other and larger animals. In one such den
in Brazos County the large nest, located about a meter
from the entrance, was composed of dried broom sedge
grasses, leaves, and small twigs.
The diet of eastern woodrats consists
almost exclusively of vegetable matter which provides
both food and water. In east-central Texas they feed on
acorns, yaupon berries, and the leaves of oaks, yaupon,
French mulberry, green briar, peppervine, rattan, and
hackberry. Many of these items were garnered by the rats
well above ground, which indicates that most of their
foraging is done in the crowns of the trees and shrubs.
The breeding season extends from
January to September in Texas. Litter size ranges from
one to five (average, two) and up to three litters may be
produced annually. The gestation period is about 33 days.
Newborn woodrats are blind, deaf, naked, and weigh only
15 g. The eyes open at about 15 days of age, and weaning
takes place around the twentieth day. Woodrats do not
reach adult size until they are about 8-9 months of age,
and most females do not breed until they are about 1 year
The home range is rather limited; the
animals usually stay close to the home den. Studies
suggest that 85 m is an exceptional distance for them to
travel in their foraging activities. Also, they are more
or less colonial to the extent that several rats will
establish themselves in a relatively restricted locality.
In one instance 35 to 50 rats lived in a 180 m distance
along a favorable gully.
Since these rats usually inhabit wooded
or brushy lands, they seldom come into close contact with
man and conflict but little, if at all, with his economy.
They are preyed upon by owls, skunks, foxes, and other
Photo credit: John L. Tveten.