Rarely-seen ‘species of concern’ captured on West Virginia trail cam

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — An animal considered by the National Parks Service (NPS) to be a “species of concern” in West Virginia was recently spotted on a trail camera in Monongahela National Forest.

The national forest shared the footage from March on its official Facebook page this week. In the post, it said there are only an estimated 100,000 of the federally threatened Allegheny woodrats left in the wild. Despite their name and large size, the rodent is more closely related to a mouse than a rat.

Unlike its less-desirable cousins, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources describes the Allegheny woodrat as “docile and meticulously clean, thereby posing no threat to human health or safety.” It does, however, have a habit of collecting shiny objects and bringing them to their nest, Tennessee wildlife officials explain.

While the Monongahela National Forest said there’s speculation as to why the Allegheny woodrat is declining, some scientists believe that the gypsy moth, also known as the spongy moth, which harms acorn-bearing oak trees, is damaging the rodent’s food source and habitat.

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The Forest Service did not specify where in the forest the Allegheny woodrat was spotted.

Back in October of 2022, the NPS announced that it had found adult and young Allegheny woodrats in Harpers Ferry while it was conducting a survey. It was the first time the animal had been spotted in the National Historic Park in more than 20 years at the time. Before the survey results, the animal was believed to be locally extinct.

The primarily nocturnal woodrat was once found from Connecticut west to Indiana and south to Alabama, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The species’ range, like its population, is believed to have since declined. In addition to West Virginia, it has earned conservation status across Alabama, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia, NPS explains.

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