Like other woodrats, the Allegheny woodrat builds a large ‘house’ or nest from sticks, leaves, roots and other materials. The nest of this species is typically built in an inaccessible, well-protected rock crevice or on a ledge in a cave, and consists of an open cup, not unlike the nest of a bird (1) (2) (3) (4) (5). It is usually a fairly large structure, measuring up to 60 centimetres across, with an inner cavity about 12 centimetres across (1) (4). The nest may be lined with shredded bark, grass, fur, rootlets or feathers (1) (3).
The Allegheny woodrat also constructs large piles of sticks and debris, known as ‘middens’, near to the nest. The middens may be used to store food, but also commonly contain miscellaneous items such as bark, bones, feathers, animal dung and even human trash. The function of this collecting is unknown (1) (3) (4) (5). Its tendency to collect many different types of objects has earned this and other woodrats the nickname ‘packrats’ (2) (5) (6). The Allegheny woodrat also leaves characteristic piles of droppings on ledges near its nest (3) (4).
This nocturnal rodent is active year-round (5) (6), but may not move as far from its rocky habitats in late autumn and winter, when food is more scarce (4). During this time, the Allegheny woodrat may rely on food stored in its middens (8). The diet of the Allegheny woodrat includes a variety of leaves, seeds, fruits, ferns, fungi and lichens, with nuts such as acorns being particularly important (1) (3) (4) (5) (8). Occasional insects may also be taken (8). Predators of the Allegheny woodrat include owls, skunks, snakes, bobcats, foxes, weasels and hawks (1) (5).
The Allegheny woodrat is largely solitary, territorial, and intolerant of other individuals, with fights being common (1) (2) (3) (4) (5). In captivity, dominant individuals occupy and defend their own nest sites, but the subordinates may live in groups, avoiding the dominant animals (3) (4) (5). If kept at high densities, this species shows high levels of aggression (4), and dominant individuals have been known to kill or wound all other group members (9).
The breeding season of the Allegheny woodrat varies with location, but young are commonly born from early spring to late summer, between March and October (4) (5). In some locations, breeding can take place throughout the year (4) (10). The female Allegheny woodrat gives birth to a litter of around 1 to 4 pups (2) (4), after a gestation period of 30 to 38 days (4) (5). The young are born naked but begin to grow fur after about five days. The Allegheny woodrat is fully furred by two weeks old and weaned by about four weeks (4) (5). Although this species can reach sexual maturity at around three to four months old (4), most individuals do not breed until the second year of life (5). Female Allegheny woodrats can produce up to four litters a year when conditions are favourable (2) (5).