Friday, March 19, 2010

Woodrats and Pigs: Coexistence or Whats for Dinner?

Marjorie Matocq, now a professor at UNR, was here with her family for a few days during her spring break. The weather could not have been better. Marjorie did field work for her graduate studies here 14 years ago on woodrats. These tidy, fastidious animals build piles of sticks concealing a complex of burrows and nests. We were concerned that feral pigs were wiping these out. Under one tree, there were formerly 7 nests, and now only one survives. Later in the day, Marjorie re-visited about 75 other nest sites from 14 years ago and found either the same nest, or one nearby. Although one group of 7 nests under a single tree was reduced to one, it appears the woodrats and pigs are coexisting. A few years ago, Marjorie published a taxonomic study that de-bunked the state listing for our Carmel Valley woodrats, and her ongoing work suggests the woodrats are also reasonably abundant.