Nest Site and Microhabitat Selection by Key Largo Woodrats

Reductions in habitat quantity and quality have contributed to precipitous declines in the Key Largo woodrat (Neotoma floridana smalli) population over the last 30 years. Additional information on microhabitat and nest site selection is needed to increase quality of the remaining habitat and increase the population. In 2005-2006, we evaluated microhabitat selection by comparing structure and composition of vegetation at known woodrat locations to random locations in available areas. We evaluated nest site selection by comparing nest substrate availability and habitat characteristics around nests with random locations. We detected little support for selection of foraging areas based on structure and composition of vegetation. Key Largo woodrats selected nest sites in areas with higher abundance of artificial nest substrate and higher percentage of younger hammock. Key Largo woodrats appear to be generalists with respect to microhabitat, but display a high degree of selection for artificial nest substrate, which presumably offers greater protection from predators. Although results indicate that artificial nest substrate currently is an important habitat component for Key Largo woodrats, long term management should focus on protection of hardwood hammock to allow development of natural nest substrate.

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