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Allegheny woodrat (Neotoma magister) captive propagation to promote recovery of declining populations

Authors

  • Timothy J. Smyser,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
    • Correspondence to: Timothy J. Smyser, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University, 715 West State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47906.

      E-mail: tjsmyser@purdue.edu

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  • Robert K. Swihart

    1. Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
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Abstract

The Allegheny woodrat (Neotoma magister) is endemic to the eastern United States with local distributions restricted to rocky habitats within deciduous forests. Over the last 40 years, woodrats have declined precipitously due to an array of human-mediated pressures. There is growing interest in the captive propagation of woodrats as a tool to promote in situ conservation, but their solitary social structure, territorial behavior, and low fecundity present challenges for the attainment of levels of ex situ reproduction sufficient to support reintroduction programs. In 2009 we established a captive breeding program with 12 wild-caught individuals (4.8) collected from Indiana and Pennsylvania. Restricting breeding to wild-caught individuals, over 26 months we produced 19 litters comprised of 43 pups (26.17), of which 40 (24.16) survived to weaning. In sum, wild-caught individuals readily habituated to the captive environment and the low fecundity of woodrats was offset by high survival rates for both adults and juveniles. Therefore, when managed appropriately, captive Allegheny woodrat populations should be capable of supporting the release of surplus individuals to augment in situ conservation measures. Zoo Biol. 33:29–35, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals Inc.

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