Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Erin Guinn
Photo Copyright Erin Guinn

The desert woodrat, Neotoma lepida, occurs in parts of Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, Utah, and Baja California. The species is common in western Utah, where it inhabits rocky slopes and desert areas with sparse vegetation. The species is similar, if not identical, in appearance to the Arizona woodrat, Neotoma devia, which occurs in southeastern Utah. In fact, the Arizona woodrat and desert woodrat were considered to be the same species until recent evidence proved otherwise.

Desert woodrats are primarily nocturnal, retreating to dens constructed of debris among rocks and/or vegetation when inactive during the day. Females are very prolific, and may have more than four litters of one to five young each year.

Desert woodrats eat a variety of plant material, such as seeds, fruits, and leaves. As is the case with all woodrats, desert woodrats have hair on their tails, which distinguishes them from Old World rats.


  • Biotics Database. 2005. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, NatureServe, and the network of Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centers.

  • Burt, W. H. and R. P. Grossenheider. 1980. A field guide to the mammals. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 289 pp.