Hawkwatchers Threaten Allegheny Woodrat

Improvements made to the historic ridgetop hawkwatching site at Waggoner’s Gap, in Pennsylvania’s southern Alleghenies, endanger the threatened Allegheny Woodrat (Neotoma Magister), the ” pack rat” of popular lore. The casual human use that characterized the area recently gave way to an intensive focus of interlocking trails and signage accompanied by high rates of visitation.

Hawk migration enthusiasts ascend with binoculars to the jumble of tabular sandstones at the summit, while woodrat researchers ply the gaps in the rocks for woodrat dens to mark. The woodrats tolerate only sporadic intrusion.

A broken bottle and shattered chunk of Tuscarora sandstone mark a prior den area, now devoid of its research marker. Numerous no-trespassing signs wall off the hawk-counters from the adjacent ridgeline, segregating remaining woodrat habitat.

A similar model of coexistence is on display at famous Hawk Mountain in northeastern Pennsylvania.  Beginning in August of each year, birdwatchers visit the mountain in numbers and frequent the same habitat as wood rats.

 

 

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