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Allegheny woodrats (Neotoma magister) currently receive protected status throughout their range due to population declines. Threats associated with habitat fragmentation (e.g., introduced predators, disease, loss of connectivity among subpopulations and habitat loss) may explain why Allegheny woodrats are no longer found in many areas where they existed just 25 y ago. In southern West Virginia, surface coal mining is a major cause of forest fragmentation. Furthermore, mountaintop mining, the prevalent method in the region, results in a loss of rock outcrops and cliffs within forested areas, typical habitat of the Allegheny woodrat To determine the extent that Allegheny woodrats make use of reclaimed mine land, particularly rock drainages built during reclamation, we sampled 24 drainage channels on reclaimed surface mines in southern West Virginia, collected habitat data at each site and used logistic regression to identify habitat variables related to Allegheny woodrat presence. During 187 trap nights, 13 adult, 2 subadult and 8 juvenile Allegheny woodrats were captured at 13 of the 24 sites. Percent of rock as a groundcover and density of stems >15 cm diameter-at-breast-height (DBH) were related to Allegheny woodrat presence and were significantly greater at sites where Allegheny woodrats were present than absent. Sites where Allegheny woodrats were present differed substantially from other described habitats in West Virginia, though they may simulate boulder piles that occur naturally. Our findings suggest the need for additional research to examine the dynamics between Allegheny woodrat populations inhabiting rock outcrops in forests adjacent to mines and populations inhabiting constructed drainage channels on reclaimed mines. However, if Allegheny woodrats can use human-created habitat, our results will be useful to surface mine reclamation and to other mitigation efforts where rocky habitats are lost or disturbed.
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Allegheny woodrat (Neotoma magister) use of rock drainage channels on reclaimed mines in southern West Virginia