DATELINE – May 30, 2020 – Princeton, Texas

I’ve just recently become interested in the Eastern Woodrat—a type of pack rat found in North Texas riparian forests. In an attempt to learn more about these woodland rodents, I have been experimenting with some new camera trapping techniques.

The Eastern Woodrat

As it turns out, there are actually a lot of these interesting critters in North Texas, and they quickly began showing up in my pictures and videos with some regularity.

The pictures I am sharing in this article come from a slightly unexpected scenario. When I began this six -week project, I believed that I would be recording the going-ons at a busy Armadillo den. And for the first two weeks that’s exactly what happened.

The Nine-banded Armadillo
A Nine-banded Armadillo leaving his den
Evidence of armadillo activity was abundant at this site

Sometime during the third week, however, I started getting pictures of a new visitor to the site. An Eastern Woodrat had made an appearance and was spending a lot of time sizing up the neighborhood. Meanwhile the resident Armadillo continued to come and go, apparently unaware that his home was under surveillance.

This Eastern Woodrat needs a new home
This spot looks pretty good…
She’ll do. Oh, she’ll do just fine.

The Armadillo’s burrow was located at the top of a small mound of earth deep inside a riparian forest. Framing the entrance was a tidy little diamond-shape formed by four branches of a Bois D’arc deadfall. The mouth of the den was approximately a foot in diameter, with the depth unknown.

Here’s how the den entrance looked in mid-April.
Notice the pair of Bewick’s Wrens at the top right
Bewick’s Wrens, a closer look.
Many other critters stopped by the den site, including this Common Raccoon…
…and this Greater Roadrunner

I don’t believe there is anything particularly unusual about the situation described in these pictures. It is well established that Eastern Woodrats make use of den sites created by other critters. This is just the first time I’ve had a chance to observe it.

What you will see in the following pictures is a woodrat slowly wresting control of the burrow away from an Armadillo. Afterward the little rat can be seen bringing small branches and other detritus back to the den in order to reconfigure it more to his liking.

The Eastern Woodrat on site in late April
Bringing materials back to add to the den
A woodrat’s nest is called a midden
Working sticks and other detritus into the usurped burrow
Inspecting the burrow
Rearranging materials
Even relatively large sticks are used
At one point, the armadillo returned briefly…
…and the woodrat couldn’t believe it!

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