Dusky-footed woodrats are found throughout California in a variety of different habitats, including chaparral, coastal sage scrub, oak and riparian woodlands. Woodrats give birth to litters of one to four young during winter and spring. These gentle creatures are masters of construction, building huge, house like nests of sticks, leaves and paper that can be up to six feet tall.
These conical constructions are elaborate, with multiple and separate chambers for rearing young, storage and waste. Woodrats store leaves in these special chambers until their toxic chemicals are leached out and can be safely eaten.
Woodrats aren’t the only animals living in their houses. They share their homes with many different animals, including salamanders, snails, lizards, slugs, and insects.
Woodrats increase species diversity of certain ecosystems by providing shelter for animals that might not otherwise be able to endure the extremes of their environment.
While woodrats themselves aren’t commonly seen, their impressive nests are easy to find. They are most often found in thick brush, such as blackberry patches, or around the base of trees.