Eastern woodrats are nocturnal and are active all year round (5) (8). Their occupancy of an area can be identified via the presence of a large bulky nest with a nearby ‘latrine’ consisting of a pile of droppings (5) (6).
Eastern woodrats nest in a range of different locations, including hollow trees and logs, man-made structures and natural underground chambers (2) (7) (8) (9). They also build extensive stick ‘houses’ to nest inside, which vary in shape and size depending on the location (2) (6) (7). The species has also been called the packrat because of its tendency to build these bulky structures out of sticks (5). The ‘houses’ are built as effective protection from rain and cold, and usually measure between 0.6 and 1 metre in height (2) (7). More than one eastern woodrat nest may be found inside each structure, which is continually maintained and added to (2) (6) (7). The inside of the nest is filled with material shredded by the woodrat using its teeth, and shaped using its head and forefeet (7).
Eastern woodrats produce relatively few young compared to most similarly sized rodents (5). They breed 2 or 3 times per year, with the female eastern woodrat giving birth to a litter of 1 to 6 pups, after a gestation period of around 35 days (5) (7) (9). A litter most commonly contains two pups (7).
Woodrats are born nearly naked, blind, helpless, and unsteady, with their incisors already erupted (2) (5) (7) (9). They immediately attach themselves firmly to their mother’s teats, and remain attached for the majority of three or four weeks (2) (5). Eastern woodrat pups have been observed being dragged along the ground when the female leaves the nest, without apparently being harmed (5).
Young eastern woodrats go through a rapid transformation in the first few weeks, and are fully furred with their eyes open after about 15 days (5) (7) (9). Weaning occurs at about four weeks, their weight increases rapidly until the end of the third month, and they are fully grown and start breeding when they are around eight months old (3) (5) (7).
The eastern woodrat is an opportunistic feeder, eating all types of vegetation including berries, stems, seeds, buds, tubers, nuts and mushrooms (5) (6) (7). While they are almost entirely herbivorous, they do sometimes eat insects (5) (6). They are good climbers, and have been known to forage in trees (5). The eastern woodrat stores food throughout the winter months in its nest, with some plants found left on rocks, possibly for ‘haying’ to keep over winter (7). Food storing starts around September or October, and although foraging does occur throughout the winter months, the majority of food is consumed on the spot (7).