Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2002


Published in Great Plains Research 12:1 (Spring 2002): 157-66 . Copyright © 2002 Center for Great Plains Studies.


The eastern woodrat is a characteristic, charismatic rodent in the prairie region. We assessed the distribution of eastern woodrats (Neotoma floridana) within the mosaic of interspersed grasslands and woodlands on the Konza Prairie Biological Station. In summer 1996 we recorded the placement of eastern woodrat nests in 10 areas that differed in prescribed fire regimes. Although most vegetation in our study sites (>90% of the area) was native tallgrass prairie, all of the nests (n = 122) were associated with woody-shrubby vegetation. Nests of the eastern woodrat were more common along limestone outcrops that had trees and shrubs (16 nests/km) than in the other four types of linear, wooded habitats (<2 nests/km). Seven of 78 nests were damaged or destroyed in areas burned by prescribed fires in April 1997. Large-sized eastern woodrat nests were less common in sites that experienced annual fires than in those sites that had less frequent fires. This pattern suggests that eastern-woodrat nests are vulnerable to prairie fires. The frequency of large eastern woodrat nests may be an indication of time since last burn in a tallgrass prairie ecosystem.