Habits of the Eastern Wood Rat

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The eastern wood rat (Neotoma floridana), which is also commonly known as the Florida wood rat, is a big, grayish rat that lives all over the southeastern, Midwestern and southern central United States, including Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, Kansas, Texas and Louisiana. For the most part, eastern wood rats lead nocturnal and independent lives.

Nocturnal Habits

Eastern wood rats usually are busy when it's dark out at night. However, they occasionally are alert toward the end of the afternoon. In most cases, however, eastern wood rats are sound asleep in the daytime. They peak in energy relatively early on in the evening, usually within a mere couple of hours after twilight.

Eating Habits

Eastern wood rats are enthusiastic consumers of foliage, fruit, stems, nuts, ferns, herbs, seeds, tree bark, buds, fungi, roots and small shoots. Some of their favorite berries include both wild cherries and blackberries. Although not common, eastern wood rats also occasionally take in bugs too. Bones are another somewhat rare component of the eastern wood rat diet. They often store food away in heaps for use during the winter months -- particularly foliage, seeds and fruit.

Hoarding Habits

Eastern wood rats don't only stash away precious food, they also do the same with random and unfamiliar items, according to the Department of Natural Resources for South Carolina. They are particularly attracted to glossy things, like necklaces and quarters.

Shelter Habits

Eastern wood rats typically set up camp in varied habitats, such as floodplain forests, swamps, shrublands, thickets and rugged outcrops and cliffs. In some cases, eastern wood rats even occupy empty human structures. They often live in ground burrows, in cavities of trees and even in piles of debris -- think grasses, foliage, bark, stones and sticks. These piles or "nests" are often situated on the banks of creeks.

Reproductive Habits

For the most part, the reproductive season of eastern wood rats starts in February and ends in August, according to Animal Diversity Web of the University of Michigan. However, it is possible for these rodents to reproduce all year long. Female eastern wood rats are pregnant for between 31 and 36 days. They usually have litters of two, three or four baby rats. Weaning generally occurs when the offspring are between 3 and 4 weeks in age.

Body Language Habits

In fearful and anxious situations, eastern wood rats often react by stomping their back feet onto the ground, grinding their teeth together, squeaking, lightly shaking their tails and making rattling sounds with their teeth.

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