Don’t be scared: Rats and other creepy crawlies are protected by the MSHCP
Crawling through the chaparral, coastal sage, and other brush, the San Diego Desert Woodrat, also known as Neotoma lepida intermedia, is a small mammal that calls western Riverside County home. While the woodrat has San Diego in its name, this creature can also be found locally, but shouldn’t cause you nightmares. These foragers eat leaves, seeds, berries, parts of flowers, and yucca shoots — and will leave you alone.
The woodrat prefers to live in large cactus patches and rock outcroppings and can be found throughout the Great Basin and the Mojave and Colorado deserts. These sedentary woodrats avoid open areas and prefer to live near primary food sources. They are known for being quite adaptable, as they use various vegetation and woody materials to create large dens or middens with multiple entrances to house multiple generations of woodrats.
Rats aren’t the only spooky species protected by the MSHCP. The Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) and Coast Range Newt (Taricha tarosa tarosa) also are nearby. The Turkey Vulture is a large, dark bird that consumes carrion (dead animals). Its large wings form the letter “V” – Very scary.
The Coast Range Newt does not hang out in a witch’s cauldron. It has been spotted in lands southwest of Lake Elsinore and the Santa Rosa Plateau. The Coast Range Newt feeds on small invertebrates and secretes toxins to repel predators. What’s creepy is that it’s been observed walking through fire!
Conserving the areas where the San Diego Desert Woodrat, Turkey Vulture, and the Coast Range Newt live will require the preservation of vital habitats within western Riverside County. While they may be scary animals to their prey, this trio is essential to their respective ecosystems within the MSHCP.