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Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Collection: Species Details Lewis and Clark as Naturalists
Mammal    Species Name:
Neotoma cinerea

Common Name:
Bushy-tailed Wood Rat


Great Falls, Montana   July 2, 1805

. . . we caught a large rat.

Larger than the eastern woodrat, the bushy-tailed woodrat is true to its name.  Along with a larger body size and large, naked ears, the squirrel-like tail is really what separates these thieving rats from any other, and consequently makes identifying the species from Lewis' notes unquestionable.  In Lewis' brief remarks concerning the rats of the country, he made some astute observations.  He noticed the locations of their nests tucked into rock clefts and tree hollows, and he also remarked on the rodent's fondness for prickly pear fruit.  This he deduced from the discarded fruit cores around their nests.  Like their eastern relative, the eastern woodrat, otherwise known as the packrat, these western rats are collectors of all sorts of objects, which they place in a midden.  Theodore Roosevelt once described finding a woodrat collection that had among its prizes a small revolver, a hunting knife, two books, a fork, a small bag, and a tin cup.  Did Teddy exaggerate?

For more information about this North American mammal, click here.

Journal Entries:

Capt. Lewis, July 2, 1805--after our return, in moving some of the baggage we caught a large rat. (Copy for Dr. Barton)...  more>>

References Ord, George in William Guthrie, A New Geographical, Historical, and Commercial Grammer; and present state of the several Kingdoms of the world. &c. Second American Edition, 2 vols, , 1815

see following caption

See following caption
bushy-tailed wood rat

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