Identifying and Targeting Intervention Strategies for Allegheny Woodrat (Neotoma magister) Recovery

Allegheny woodrats (Neotoma magister, NEMA) are experiencing a protracted decline in the northern half of their range. These declines are, in part, rooted in the concomitant loss of American chestnut trees (Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Borkh.), as well as other mast producing species such as butternut (Juglans cinerea L.), and gypsy moth impacts on oaks (Quercus L.). In addition, limited availability of hollow trees for den sites outside of the woodrats primary foraging areas may increase interactions with raccoons, which are hosts for a pathogenic raccoon roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis) known to cause woodrat mortality. Woodrat populations have been evaluated on an annual and semi-annual basis in Pennsylvania since 1982 and Maryland since 1990, providing valuable insights into dynamics over a 25-year period at extant and extirpated sites. The relationships between woodrat population dynamics and abiotic forest conditions and biotic pathogen loads have been speculated, but there have been few long-term studies to address these speculations. We propose a two-tiered study that will: 1. Determine interactions between woodrat populations and forest dynamics using dendrochrology, mast production data, and inventories; 2. Evaluate the occurrence and distribution of raccoons using remote camera, raccoon latrine prevalence, and incidence of raccoon roundworm parasite load in raccoon feces. Direct impacts of this study will be a targeted assessment of the highest need areas for management intervention. Forest inventories will determine locations where supplemental plantings of mast producing species will be the most beneficial. Evaluation of raccoon activity patterns and parasite load will result in areas in greatest need of dispersion of Ivermectin bait stations.


Between July 1 and September 30 we focused on the fieldwork component of Objective 2 under the primary supervision of mammologist Dr. Tom Serfass. Graduate research assistant Alice Hotopp and research associate Kelly Pearce assisting in this aspect of the project. Starting in September we focused on camera trapping and collecting raccoon feces for analysis. We also worked on various elements of Objective 2 under the primary supervision of forest ecologist Dr. Sunshine Brosi. Graduate research assistants Laura Smith, Karen Johnson, and Bryan Whitmore assisted in this project as well as undergraduate student Laura Price. Graduate and undergraduate students continued to collected tree rings and SILVAH-oak data from ten current and historic woodrat sites in Maryland. We completed growing season measurements of woodrat sites and collecting tree rings on Maryland sites.
Between October 1 and December 30we will focus on the fieldwork component of continuing the camera data collection. Tom Serfass, Alice Hotopp, and Kelly Pearce will continue to collect camera data into November in Maryland. Randy FitzGerald and Gretchen Fowles will collect camera data in New Jersey as well as raccoon scat. Sunshine Brosi, Laura Smith and Karen Johnson will travel to New Jersey to collect forest ecology data from the Palisades location. Carolyn Mahan will receive the raccoon samples for analysis and analyze them.The project will be completed by December 2017.

Original Proposal: 

Project Leader

Name: Sunshine L. Brosi, Ph.D

Title: Associate Professor of Biology

Organization: Frostburg State University

Other Principal Investigators

Name: Tom Serfass, Ph.D

Title: Professor

Organization: Frostburg State University

Name: Carolyn G. Mann, Ph.D

Title: Professor of Biology

Organization: Penn State Altoona

Name: Danielle J. Feller

Title: Western Regional Ecologist

Organization: Natural Heritage, MD DNR

Name: Greg Turner

Title: Endangered Mammal Specialist

Organization: PA Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife

Name: Tom Hall

Title: Forest Pathologist

Organization: Bureau of Forestry, PA DCNR

Name: Randy Fitzgerald

Title: Associate Proffessor of Environmental Studies

Organization: Montclair State University

Name: Gretchen Fowles

Title: GIS Specialist/Biologist

Organization: NJ Endangered & Nongame Species Program