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Range Expansion of Sigmodon hispidus (Hispid Cotton Rat) into Reclaimed Coal Surface-Mines in Southeastern Kentucky

Slabach, Brittany L., Krupa, James J.
Northeastern naturalist 2018 v.17 no.4 pp. N84
Sigmodon hispidus, climate, coal, forbs, grasses, habitats, hardwood forests, landscapes, rodents, surface mining, valleys, Kentucky
Sigmodon hispidus (Hispid Cotton Rat) is the most wide-spread species of Sigmodon in North America. In recent years, this species has expanded northward and westward in the western part of its range due to changes in habitat and climate. Evidence suggests northward expansion is also occurring in Kentucky. Since the 1980s, extensive coal mining via surface mining and mountain-top removal has transformed more than 2300 km² of hardwood forests on the Cumberland Plateau of eastern Kentucky. Mining has transformed the landscape, once characterized by forests with deep valleys, steep slopes, and narrow, winding ridgetops into reclaimed sites with a relatively flat landscape dominated by grasses and forbs suitable for run-making rodents. Hispid Cotton Rat is thus poised to expand into the reclaimed mines of eastern Kentucky. We report the first record of Hispid Cotton Rat from a reclaimed-mine site and predict this species will expand its range north and east through this new habitat.