Allegheny woodrat: Elusive ‘species of concern’ captured on West Virginia trail cam

The Allegheny woodrat is pictured in a screenshot from March 2024 footage shared by the U.S. Forest Service - Monongahela National Forest.

An elusive rodent considered by the National Parks Service as a "species of concern" in West Virginia was recently spotted on a trail camera in the Allegheny Mountains.

The Allegheny woodrat was described as both "federally threatened and downright adorable" in a Facebook post this week by the U.S. Forest Service - Monongahela National Forest.

The Forest Service shared footage from the trail cam, dated March 12, 2024, showing the 17-inch-long rodent moving around at nighttime. In the post, officials noted how Allegheny woodrats dwell primarily in hardwood forests with plenty of rocks and boulders, and despite their size, they are more closely related to mice than rats. 

There are only an estimated 100,000 Allegheny woodrats left in the wild, the U.S. Forest Service said.

"Although there’s still some speculation as to why their population is declining, many scientists blame the gypsy moth, which harms acorn-bearing oak trees (an important food source for Allegheny woodrats) and habitat degradation," it wrote in the Facebook post. 

Common predators include great horned owls, black rat snakes, raccoons, and coyotes.

At one time, the Allegheny woodrat's range extended from southwestern Connecticut west to Indiana and south to northern Alabama, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission

But the animals’ range is believed to have since declined, as well, residing in southern New York down through Tennessee, the NPS says on its website

In 2022, the NPS said both adult and young Allegheny woodrats were discovered in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park for the first time in 20 years. Prior to this, officials believed the animal had gone extinct locally over several parts of its native Appalachian range.

This story was reported from Cincinnati.