Eastern woodrat
Neotoma floridana
ITIS Species Code:   180372         NatureServ Element Code:   AMAFF08010
NatureServe Global Rank: 
NatureServe State (NC) Rank: 
Federal Status: 
NC State Status: 
Land Unit

US Fish & Wildlife Service
US Forest Service
US National Park Service
US Department of Defense
NC State Parks
NC University System
NC Wildlife Res. Com.
NC Forest Service
NC Div. of Coastal Mgmt.
Local Governments
Non-Governmental Org.
Other Public Lands
Private Lands

GAP Status 1-2
All Protected Lands




% of Dist. on
Prot. Lands

< 0.1 %
67.4 %
3.6 %
21.8 %
1.0 %
0.8 %
2.4 %
0.4 %
< 0.1 %
1.0 %
1.0 %
< 0.1 %
0.0 %

32.2 %
% of Dist. on
All Lands

< 0.1 %
21.6 %
1.2 %
7.0 %
0.3 %
0.3 %
0.8 %
0.1 %
< 0.1 %
0.5 %
0.4 %
< 0.1 %
67.9 %

10.3 %
Within North Carolina, populations are broadly disjunct, limited to southern portions of the lower coastal plain around Wilmington and the mouth of the Cape Fear River, and to the southern Appalachians where populations are most common above 3000ft (Clark 1987).

Low-lying moist areas are common haunts for populations of this woodland rat in the coastal plain. It is primarily found in deciduous forests of floodplains, ravines, swamps and of forested areas near marshes (Whitaker and Hamilton 1998). Interiors and edges of dense forests in upland areas, where brushy thickets and large debris are plentiful, are also used (Clark 1987). It is also associated with rocky places, particularly among populations in the mountains of North Carolina, where fissures and crevices provide shelter. But, it is less restricted to rocky habitats than the Allegheny wood rat (Neotoma magister) and will also find shelter in abandoned houses and barns that are located at elevations above 3000ft.

Nests have been found in shrub and vine thickets, hollows of trees and stumps, subterranean chambers, barns and abandoned buildings, cave entrances, and among rocks on talus slopes (Clark 1987). Nests of sticks and debris are commonly used for multiple years or for the lifespan of the animal.


Wooded areas, ravines, floodplain forest; swamps and osage orange and other hedges in some areas in southern U.S. The coastal subspecies has been found in a wide variety of habitats, including lowland deciduous forests from Florida northward to southeastern North Carolina, generally inside or near edges of forests, primarily deciduous forest. Other habitats include low, wet areas, ranging from marshes (Svihla and Svihla 1933) to swamps and swamp hammocks (Bangs 1898, Harper 1927, Chamberlain 1928, Hamilton 1953). In Georgia and Florida, habitat is wet areas in hammocks and densely vegetated swamps, where nests are built in hollow trees or along stream banks in dense tangles of cabbage palmetto (Golley 1962, Hamilton and Whittaker 1979). Pearson (1952) recorded greatest abundance in ecotones between dry and wet hammocks in Florida. Harper (1927) described habitat in the Okefenokee Swamp as cypress bays, hammocks, swamps, and sometimes sphagnaceous bogs.

David Webster (UNC-Wilmington) suggested that the species is habitat-specific and confined to particular soil types. Preferred habitat in North Carolina consists of low-lying deciduous forests with a dense cover of palmetto (SABAL MINOR). The Rocky Point, Pender County, population is restricted to an unusual woodland dominated by dense shrub layer of SABAL MAJOR established on a unique soil (Pender Series) with a very shallow, acidic A-horizon and a slightly alkaline B-horizon (Webster et al. 1987). The habitat there appears to be similar to the palmetto forests of Florida where woodrats are relatively abundant.

Young are born in a nest in a rocky crevice, in or under a tree, in a brush pile, in an abandoned building (Schwartz and Odum 1957), or in a similar site; rarely in the lower branches of a tree. In the Midwest nests generally are sheltered by a stick house (Hayes and Harrison 1992). Nest commonly is used in successive years, may become quite large. Harper (1927) described a nest of sticks and other debris that filled a hollow cypress stump and rose to a height of three feet. Chamberlain (1928) described South Carolina nests that were two feet in height and three feet in diameter and constructed in tangles of grape and SMILAX. Golley (1962) wrote that nests are often supported by a log, constructed in a stump or hollow, or even several feet off the ground in vine tangles. Working in Gulf Coast Florida, Pearson (1952) described nests in barns, hollow logs, and subterranean chambers under stumps, tree bases, and root masses. Nest sites were not excavated to any extent by the rats themselves. The majority of nests described by Pearson were found in dense tangles of low shrubs with only small midden heaps scattered around them. Schwartz and Schwartz (1981) described typical woodrat nests as being large, 1.5 to 4 ft in diameter and > 3 ft in height. The internal nest cavity was typically 5-8 inches in diameter and carefully lined with finely shredded bark, leaves or grass. The exterior was a jumbled mass of sticks, dried grass, leaves, and assorted rubbish (old bones, pieces of metal, small rocks, etc.) collected by the rat. Nests were left open at the top in sheltered areas, but were roofed over in exposed situations such as in low trees and shrubs. Nests were used all year and, in some cases, for an entire lifetime. Woodrats continually added to their nests and established nests might have several levels and nest cavities.

Occupied Landcover Map Units:
Code NameDescription NC Natural Heritage Program Equivalent
75 Tidal Swamp Forest Swamp tupelo dominated forest with or without black tupelo and/or cypress trees. Restricted to the tidal zones in the coastal plain. May have inclusions of coastal red cedar woodlands. Tidal cypress - gum swamp
17 Maritime Forests and Hammocks Maritime forests and woodlands dominated by live or sand laurel oak. Estuarine Fringe forests dominated by loblolly pine. Coastal Fringe Evergreen Forest, Maritime Deciduous Forest, Maritime Deciduous Forest
126 Interdune Wooded Depression Swamp Includes swamps dominated by sweetbay and swampbay or dogwood dominated forests. Maritime Shrub Swamp, Maritime Swamp Forest
173 Coastal Plain Riverbank Shrubs Shrub dominated riverbanks, commonly dominated by willows and/or alders. Sand and Mud Bar
50 Coastal Plain Mixed Bottomland Forests Includes forests dominated by a variety of hardwood species, including sweetgum, cottonwood, red maple. Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwood (in part), Coastal Plain Levee Forest
49 Coastal Plain Oak Bottomland Forest Bottomland forests dominated by deciduous oak alliances. Oaks represented can include swamp chestnut, cherrybark, willow, and/or overcup oak. Inclusions of loblolly pine temporarily flooded forests occur in patches. Hydrology is temporarily to seasonally flooded. Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwoods (in part) blackwater subtype, brownwater subtype
158 Coastal Plain Nonriverine Wet Flat Forests Loblolly pine - Atlantic white-cedar - red maple - swamp tupelo saturated forests as well as forests dominated by loblolly, sweetgum, and red maple in non-riverine flats. Non-riverine Wet Hardwood Forest
41 Peatland Atlantic White-Cedar Forest Dense stands of Atlantic white cedar with saturated hydrology. Can include swamp tupelo, red maple, and pond pines with a moderate shrub and herb layer. Peatland Atlantic White-Cedar Forest
15 Seepage and Streamhead Swamps Includes extensive peat flats in the coastal plain, dominated by swamp tupelo, maples, and Atlantic white cedar alliances. In the sandhills includes streamhead pond pine and bay forests alliances. Saturated hydrology. Bay Forest, Small Depression Pocosin, Streamhead Atlantic White Cedar Forest, Streamhead Pocosins
30 Cypress-Gum Floodplain Forests Swamps dominated by black or swamp tupelo with or without Taxodium. Seasonally to semi-permanently flooded hydrology. Cypress-Gum Swamps
78 Pond-Cypress - Gum Swamps, Savannas and Lakeshores Cypress dominated swamps and lakeshores. Can include bays dominated by pond cypress or shorelines of coastal plain lakes with a narrow band of cypress. Non-riverine Swamp Forest, Natural Lakeshores (in part)
385 Oak Bottomland Forest and Swamp Forest The swamp chestnut oak, cherrybark oak, shumard oak and sweetgum alliance is one representative. Other alliances are dominated by water, willow, and overcup oaks. Swamp forests can be dominated by sweetgum, red maple, and black gum being dominant. Loblolly can occur in combination with sweetgum and red maple, or with tulip poplar. Includes saturated and semi- to permanently flooded forests in the mountains. Piedmont/Mountain Bottomland Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Swamp Forest
63 Coastal Plain Mesic Hardwood Forests Beech dominated forests with white oak and northern red oak as possible co-dominants. Dry-mesic to mesic forests on slopes and small stream bottoms in the coastal plain. Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forest, Basic Mesic Forests
267 Riverbank Shrublands Riverside shrubs with temporarily flooded hydrologies. Found in the both the Mountains and Piedmont. Containing dominants such as smooth alder and a Carolina or black willows. Sand and Mud Bar
269 Floodplain Wet Shrublands Saturated shrublands of the Piedmont, includes buttonbush, swamp-loosestrife, decodon and alders. Piedmont/mountain Semipermanent Impoundment
230 Piedmont Mesic Forest American Beech - Red Oak - White Oak Forests. Mesic Mixed Hardwood
384 Piedmont/Mountain Mixed Bottomland Hardwood Forests Includes temporarily to seasonally forests dominated by hardwood species. Hardwoods include sweetgum, red maple, sycamore which co-occur in a mosaic of bottomland and levee positions. Includes alluvial hardwood forests in the mountains. Hemlock and white pine may occur as inclusions, but are generally mapped separately. Piedmont/Mountain Alluvial Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Levee Forest
228 Piedmont Dry-Mesic Oak and Hardwood Forests Primarily oak dominated forests, white oak is often dominant, with co-dominants including . Also represented by sweetgum and tulip poplar dominated forests. Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Basic Oak Hickory Forest, Dry Oak Hickory Forest
51 Deciduous Cultivated Plantation Planted deciduous trees. Includes sweetgum and sycamore plantations. No equivalent
36 Successional Deciduous Forests Regenerating deciduous trees with a shrub stature. Commonly dominated by sweetgum, tulip poplars and maples. No equivalent
214 Barren; bare rock and sand Areas of bare rock, sand or clay. No equivalent
202 Residential Urban Includes vegetation interspersed in residential areas. Includes lawns, mixed species woodlots, and horticultural shrubs. Vegetation accounts for between 20 - 70% of the cover. No equivalent
522 Northern Hardwoods High Elevation forests including yellow birch, American beech, and yellow buckeye. Includes forests with Hemlock and Yellow Birch. Northern Hardwoods Forest, Boulderfield Forest
525 Appalachian Oak Forest A variety of oak forest types including Black, White, Scarlet Oaks in dry to mesic situations. Includes forests historically co-dominated by American Chestnut. High Elevation Red Oak Forest, Montane White Oak Forest
526 Appalachian Cove Forest Mixed Mesophytic forests of the mountains. Includes tuliptree, basswood, yellow buckeye and surgar maple. This class is mapped to include cove forests dominated or co-dominated by hemlock. Rich Cove Forest, Acidic Cove Forest
527 Appalachian Hemlock Upland hemlock forests of the moutains region. Vary from side slopes to steep slope positions. Canada Hemlock Forest
528 Appalachian Xeric Pine Forest Pine forests and woodlands on xeric sites. A variety of pines, including Virginia, Shortleaf, Eastern White Pine, Table Mountain and Pitch pine. Often small areas of dense pine within a matrix of Xeric Oak-Pine Forests. Pine Oak Heath
529 Appalachian Xeric Mixed Forest Mixed forests with Virginia, Shortleaf, Eastern White Pine, Table Mountain and Pitch pines in combination with xeric oak species. Oaks include, white, Southern Red, black, and rock chestnut. Pine Oak Heath
530 Appalachian Xeric Deciduous Forest Deciduous forests in the mountains dominated by Xeric Oak species. Species include, white, Southern red, black, and rock chestnut. High Elevation Red Oak Forest, Montane White Oak Forest
535 Talus/Outcrops/Cliffs Includes seep talus slopes with sparce vegetation, as well as outcrops including, granitic outcrops. Some outcrops will have been mapped as barren rock. No equivalent
View Entire Landcover Legend
Additional Spatial Constraints:
Exclude all area outside of known range.
Harper, F. 1927. Mammals of the Okefinokee Swamp region of Georgia. Proc. Boston Soc. Nat. Hist. 38:191-396.

Chamberlain, E. B. 1928. The Florida wood rat in South Carolina. Journal of Mammalogy 9:152-3.

Svihla, A., and R. D. Svihla. 1933. Notes on the life history of the woodrat, NEOTOMA FLORIDANA RUBIDA (Bangs) Journal of Mammalogy 14:73-5.

Willner, G.R., G.A. Feldhammer, E.E. Zocker, and J.A. Chapman. 1980. Ondatra zibethicus. Am. Soc. Mamm., Mammalian Species No. 141. 8 pp.

Humphrey, S. R. 1988. Density estimates of the endangered Key Largo woodrat and cotton mouse (NEOTOMA FLORIDANA SMALLI and PEROMYSCUS GOSSYPINUS ALLAPATICOLA), using the nested-grid approach. J. Mammalogy 69:524-531.

Hayes, J. P., and M. E. Richmond. 1993. Clinal variation and morphology of woodrats (NEOTOMA) of the eastern United States. J. Mamm. 74:204-216.

McMurry, S. T., et al. 1993. Woodrat population dynamics following modification of resource availability. Am. Midl. Nat. 129:248-256.

Bangs, O. 1898. The land mammals of peninsular Florida and the coast region of Georgia. Proc. Boston Soc. Nat. Hist. 28:157-235.

Rainey, D. G. 1956. Eastern woodrat, Neotoma floridana:life history and ecology. Univ. Kansas Publ. Mus. Nat. Hist. 8:535-646.

Jones, J. K., Jr., et al. 1992. Revised checklist of North American mammals north of Mexico, 1991. Occas. Pap. Mus., Texas Tech Univ. (146):1-23.

Hayes, J. P., and R. G. Harrison. 1992. Variation in mitochondrial DNA and the biogeographic history of woodrats (NEOTOMA) of the eastern United States. Systematic Biology 41:331-344.

Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (editors). 1993. Mammal Species of the World:a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Second Edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. xviii + 1206 pp.

Whitaker, J.O. Jr. and W.J. Hamilton, Jr. 1998. Mammals of the eastern United States. Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca, New York. 583 pp.

Pearson, P. G. 1952. Observations concerning the life history and ecology of the wood rat NEOTOMA FLORIDANA FLORIDANA (Ord). Journal of Mammalogy 33:459-63.

Hamilton, W. J. Jr. 1953. Reproduction and young of the Florida wood rat, NEOTOMA F. FLORIDANA (Ord). Journal of Mammalogy 34:180-9.

Schwartz, A., and E. P. Odum. 1957. The woodrats of the eastern United States. Journal of Mammalogy 38:197-206.

Lowery, G. H., Jr. 1974. The mammals of Louisiana and its adjacent waters. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge. 565 pp.

Golley, F. B. 1962. Mammals of Georgia. University of Georgia Press, Atlanta, Georgia. 218 pp.

Clark, M. K. (ed.). 1987. Endangered, threatened, and rare fauna of North Carolina, part I. A re-evaluation of the mammals. Occas. Pap. North Carolina Biol.

Godin, A.J. 1977. Wild Mammals of New England. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 304 pp.

Davis, W. B. 1978. The mammals of Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept., Bull. No. 41. 294 pp.

Hamilton, William J., Jr., and John O. Whitaker, Jr. 1979. Mammals of the eastern United States. Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca, New York. 346 pp.

Wiley, R. W. 1980. NEOTOMA FLORIDANA. Am. Soc. Mamm., Mammalian Species No. 139:1-7.

Hall, E. R. 1981. The Mammals of North America. Second edition. 2 Volumes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, New York.

Schwartz, Charles W., and Elizabeth R. Schwartz. 1981. The wild mammals of Missouri. University of Missouri Press, Columbia. 356 pp.

Caire, W., J. D. Tyler, B. P. Glass, and M. A. Mares. Z. Marsh (illustrator). 1989. Mammals of Oklahoma. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. Oklahoma. 567 pp.

10 March 2005
This data was compiled and/or developed by the North Carolina GAP Analysis Project.

For more information please contact them at:
NC-GAP Analysis Project
Dept. of Zoology, NCSU
Campus Box 7617
Raleigh, NC 27695-7617
(919) 513-2853