Activity Patterns of Allegheny Woodrats (Neotoma magister) and Two Potential Competitors in Virginia
Neotoma magister (Allegheny Woodrat) is a nocturnal, emergent rock-habitat specialist (i.e., inhabits rocky outcrops, boulderfields, and caves). Woodrat populations have declined range-wide due to habitat fragmentation, endoparasites, and interspecific competition. We estimated the diel activity curves of Allegheny Woodrats and assessed the effects of habitat type (exposed rock habitat/cave- exterior vs. cave-interior) and season (spring, summer, and fall) on curve shape. We also investigated the effect of 2 granivorous competitors' presence and activity curves (Peromyscus spp. and Tamias striatus [Eastern Chipmunk]) on woodrat activity. Additionally, we investigated whether the presence or absence of Procyon lotor (Raccoon), a primary carrier of Baylisascaris procyonis (Raccoon Roundworm), significantly affects the presence or absence of Allegheny Woodrats. We used remote-detecting cameras to document the diel cycles of Allegheny Woodrats and 2 competitors across 83 sites in western Virginia and 2 sites in West Virginia from 2017 to 2022. For 13,002 recorded events, we detected woodrats at 36 of 85 sites (3778 camera events). We observed a higher proportion of daytime activity by woodrats within cave interiors than cave exteriors. Allegheny Woodrat activity curves differed among seasons, with the greatest differences observed between summer and fall and with similar to 80% activity overlap. These activity curves differed significantly when co- occurring with versus not co-occurring with a competitor. Additionally, Allegheny Woodrats showed an inverse activity rate with Peromyscus spp. Thus, our results suggest that competition avoidance via temporal partitioning occurs between these species. Allegheny Woodrats and Raccoons occurred together more often than expected suggesting the presence of woodrats is currently not reduced by the presence of Raccoons. Our remote-detecting camera data help elucidate relationships of Allegheny Woodrats with presumptive competitors, and open avenues for further investigation in Virginia.