Scientific Name: Neotoma fuscipes
Description: Dusky-footed woodrats are small, cinnamon to gray colored rodents with long whiskers, rounded ears, and furry tails. The furred tail helps to distinguish them from non-native black rats. The name “dusky-footed” refers to their dark-colored feet.
Size: Dusky-footed woodrats average about 16 inches in length. This measurement includes their long tails, which account for nearly half of their body length.
Diet: These voracious rodents eat fungi and many kinds of plant materials, including seeds, fruits, greens, and inner bark. They are nocturnal and retrieve food at night, sometimes bringing it back to the nest for storage.
Predation: Predators of dusky-footed woodrats include owls, hawks, bobcats, and coyotes.
Typical Lifespan: Their exact lifespan is unknown, but other members of the genus typically live fewer than 2 to 3 years.
Habitat: Forests of coast live oak and native willow trees with thick underbrush and cover are the ideal homes for dusky-footed woodrats. These rodents are known for building stick houses that reach up to 5 feet in height and 8 feet in diameter. Terrestrial houses are built around logs or near trees in areas that are shaded and cool. Dusky-footed woodrats are known to line their nests with nibbled-on leaves of the California bay laurel tree. It’s thought that these leaves have fumigating properties that clear nests of parasites such as ticks and mites. Abandoned homes of dusky-footed woodrats provide habitat for a number of other species.
U.S. Range: Dusky-footed woodrats are found in California and western Oregon.
Life History and Reproduction: Dusky-footed woodrats are generally solitary, but their home territories tend to overlap. After mating, males retreat to tree nests constructed in cavities or branches. Females stay in their terrestrial homes to raise one to four offspring.
Fun Fact: Members of the genus Neotoma are also called packrats, because they have a tendency to hoard things, especially shiny objects left out by humans. Woodrats are also called “trade rats,” because when they come across a new treasure, they’ll drop whatever they’re carrying in order to pick up the new item, effectively trading one token for the other.
Conservation Status: There are 11 subspecies of dusky-footed woodrats. The riparian woodrat is federally listed as endangered.