Graduate Students

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Aaron Gooley

Advisor: Dr. Eric Schaubergooley

Status, Distribution, and Dynamics
of Eastern Woodrats in Southern Illinois


  • Estimate population density, age ratios, and survival at release sites
  • Determine if the population at Pine Hills is stable relative to past assessments
  • Evaluate non-invasive methods for monitoring
  • Conduct workshops to train IDNR staff in monitoring protocols
  • Provide a robust sampling design for monitoring at release sites

Eastern woodrats historically occupied rock outcrops throughout the Shawnee Hills and Mississippi Bluffs regions in Southern Illinois. Most Illinois populations were extirpated during the last century, possibly due to the unusually severe winters of 1912 and 1918. Populations persisted at LaRue Pine Hills, Fountain Bluff, Little Grand Canyon, and Horseshoe Bluff, however, these populations were small and isolated with limited dispersal potential. As part of the recovery plan, eastern woodrats from Arkansas and Missouri were translocated to the Garden of the Gods, Buzzard's Point, High Knob, Pounds Escarpment, and Lusk Creek from 2003 through 2009. Woodrats were also translocated to Pine Hills and Fountain Bluff to genetically augment the populations. Early monitoring of translocation sites showed population persistence, but did not show if Illinois woodrats meet the criteria for reclassification from state endangered to threatened.

My sign surveys and live trapping during 2011-2012 showed widespread dispersal from the release sites as well as far greater numbers of woodrats than previously detected. My project will obtain demographic and abundance estimates at the translocation sites and several dispersal sites through mark-recapture. I will also develop non-invasive methods for monitoring woodrats (camera traps, track tubes, sign surveys), document the current rage of the eastern woodrat in southern Illinois through sign surveys and live trapping, and monitor woodrat populations at Pine Hills (Snake Road) through periodic live trapping.