Harpers Ferry wildlife officials rediscover species last seen 20 years ago

A species of wildlife not seen for twenty years was rediscovered in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park this summer – the Allegheny woodrat.

The Allegheny woodrat has experienced large population declines and even gone locally extinct over several parts of its native Appalachian range, wildlife officials say.

Photo courtesy of K. Black, Radford University

More closely related to a mouse than a rat, the Allegheny woodrat is a packrat that prefers rocky outcrops close to wooded areas. It stashes acorns, plant parts, seeds and nuts in its burrow, and collects non-food items like feathers, bones, coins, leather scraps, bottle caps and rags.

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Woodrats benefit their forest environment, spreading seeds across the landscape and helping to support plant survival and diversity. They also serve as an indicator species for scientists monitoring overall ecosystem conditions.

"The Allegheny woodrat is a remarkable species, and we’re thrilled to find them again in the Harpers Ferry area," said Nicole Keefner, a biological science technician at Harpers Ferry NHP. "This rediscovery is an important reminder of the value of protecting natural places that provide crucial habitats for plants and wildlife."

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Earlier this year, a pair of peregrine falcons, a formerly endangered species, returned again to their historic nesting grounds on Maryland Heights, and three of their chicks successfully fledged.

Allegheny woodrats were captured, tagged and released in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park this summer.