Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2001


Published in Great Plains Research 11:2 (Fall 2001). Copyright © 2001 Center for Great Plains Studies.


Anthropogenic modification of native woodlands and grasslands in the Great Plains has altered the abundance and distribution of many species of mammals. To study habitat effects on the eastern woodrat (Neotoma floridana), we surveyed nests of the eastern woodrat in woodlands, grasslands, and croplands along 77 km of secondary roads in three counties in north-central Kansas. All nests were located in woodlands ( < 2 %of habitat), although grasslands and croplands constituted 36% and 62% of habitat surveyed, respectively. In our survey, nests were associated positively with shelterbelts (3.6 nests per 100 m of road edge) but not with shrub patches (1.1 nests per 100 m of road edge) or riparian woodlands (0.3 nests per 100 m of road edge). Consequently, we specifically censused nests in an additional 12 riparian woodlands and 12 shelterbelts. Nests of eastern woodrats were less dense in riparian woodlands (9.4 nests/ha) than in shelterbelts (55.5 nests/ha). Density of woodrat nests decreased as width of a wooded area increased. Further, nests per 100 m of length of woodland did not increase as the width of woodland increased. These patterns suggest that woodland edge, not woodland interior, is the primary factor in abundance of eastern woodrats in this region. Although the eastern woodrat has previously been considered a woodland species, our results suggest that this assessment is incorrect. Our observations demonstrate that anthropogenic modification of the Great Plains, in the form of planted shelterbelts and expanded riparian woodland, likely has increased the distribution and abundance of eastern woodrats, compared to the mid-1800s.