2020 is the Year of the Rat in the Chinese zodiac, and with the Chinese New Year tomorrow, we at Sky Island are celebrating one of the native rat species in the region!
The white-throated woodrat (Neotoma albigula) is one of the several native species of woodrat in Arizona. You will commonly see the white-throated woodrats in the desert, scrublands, and arid forests of Arizona.
The white-throated woodrat is a medium sized rat with a furry, bi-colored tail. As their name suggests they also have a white throat.
They are herbivores, eating mainly cacti and their fruit although they also eat other fruits, seeds, flowers, and leaves as well. Like many small desert mammals, they get most of their water from cactus they eat.
The white-throated woodrat is one of the many woodrat species that are lumped together and called packrats. They create large nests made from sticks and cacti, as well as anything else they can find including bones and man-made objects. They are often maligned for building their nests in people’s cars and houses since these can sometimes cause significant damage.
However, packrats are not pests, they are important parts of the ecosystem. They are a main food source for many predators, and their nests are often used by many other rodents and reptiles. Additionally, their cactus fruit diet allows seed dispersal across their territory.