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Tuesday, April 8, 2014


So I've been trying to identify a rat.  I don't have much experience identifying rats, but perhaps you can help.

I was driving home from Sebastopol along Occidental Road and noticed a small mammal (dead) in the middle of the road.  I wasn't that interested in leaving it there to be run over by cars, and I was also curious about what type of mammal it was.  So I pulled over and walked back to move it off to the side of the road.

Before departing, I took a few quick photos for the record.

When I realized it was some type of rat, I looked up the main differences between a Norway Rat (Rattus norvegicus) and another species that I know occurs in this area, Dusky-footed Woodrat (Neotoma fuscipes).

Some differences between them include the following: (1) Norway Rats are grayer underneath, while woodrats are paler; (2) Norway Rats have tails shorter than their body lengths, while woodrats have tails longer than their bodies; (3) Norway Rats have "naked" tails with obvious scales, while woodrats have furry tails.

Here's a series of pictures of the small mammal I found on the road.  I should warn you although this rat is in good condition, if you don't want to see images of a road-killed mammal, look no further.

This rat's body was about 7 inches long and its tail was about 9 inches long.  It was pale underneath.  Its tail was furry.  These characteristics made me lean towards this being a Dusky-footed Woodrat.  However, I was bothered that the hairs on top of the hindfeet didn't appear that "dusky."  Does this character vary?  Or am I wrong about this identification?  Let me know what you think.

P.S. Dusky-footed Woodrats are also known as "packrats."  They build intriguing houses and are famous for collecting all sorts of trinkets.   The National Wildlife Federation has a basic fact sheet about them here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


That doesn't look like any Neotoma I have seen. Not enough fur on the tail and the ears appear the wrong shape. If I had run across it I would have called it a Norway. But mind you, I am no expert when it comes to rodentia.