Allegheny woodrats (Neotoma magister) are karst-specializing rodents that are rare or in conservation need in many states within their current range. Parasitism and habitat fragmentation have been suggested as primary reasons for declining populations. The presence, prevalence, and impact of ectoparasites, including fleas, ticks, and bots, is not fully understood rangewide. We collected Allegheny woodrat ectoparasites across 8 states in their range, identifying parasites via morphological and genetic means. Across contributions from 8 states, we discovered 2 woodrat-specific fleas parasitizing Allegheny woodrats: Orchopeas pennsylvanicus (all contributing states, n = 228) and Epitedia cavernicola (Indiana only, n = 9). The former was a new state record in New Jersey and Ohio. Woodrat specialists Ixodes woodi were morphologically identified as the dominant tick species (n = 38), and our contributions to genetic databases may ease confusion in future efforts. Three generalist species of ticks representing 8 individuals were identified as Dermacentor variabilis, Amblyomma americanum, and Ixodes scapularis. Only 2 bot fly species were recognized in Allegheny woodrats: 1 squirrel bot (Cuterebra emasculator) and 10 individuals of Cuterebra sp. not genetically conspecific to any known eastern U.S. rodent bot. The host specificity for fleas is not surprising, given that previous small-scale surveys and ticks primarily appear to be a mix of genus-specific (Ixodes woodi) and generalist species. There remains uncertainty with bots via morphological and genetic analyses. Our survey presents a wide-ranging baseline survey for Allegheny woodrats across their range, emphasizing the diversity (or specificity) of parasite groups for this species. An understanding of Allegheny woodrats and the health impact of ectoparasites is imperative because they face myriad challenges rangewide, especially considering the bot-driven demise of 1 woodrat in our study. Ectoparasites can have a marked impact on already-declining woodrat populations across their range and should not be overlooked in future surveys.

You do not currently have access to this content.