The night hoarder

Alex Badyaev's Image

Alex Badyaev (USA) documents a dexterous woodrat trying out its defences.

Alex was delighted to discover an elevated woodrat nest, as it saved him from crawling through thickets of barbed cacti in the dark to find one on the ground. Once in position, the challenge for Alex was to stay motionless, despite being spiked by cacti - that and keeping a tight grip on his camera gear to stop the curious rodents from carrying it off.

White-throated woodrats build fortresses by collecting jumping cholla cactus stems, drying them out and then carefully adding them to the walls of their nests.

Alex watched as every night the woodrat emerged to collect fresh stems. 'It broke them off carefully,' he observed, 'picking them up by the base, with the spines facing away'. Woodrats are also voracious collectors of novel items, which they hide in their ever-expanding nests.

Behind the lens

Alex Badyaev

Alex Badyaev


Alex is a Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona, USA, and is a regular contributor to several international natural history magazines. His scientific work, nature photography and popular science writing have all earned him major awards. His images tell stories about species, capturing their essence and revealing rarely seen behaviours.

Image details

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
  • 11–24mm f4 lens at 11mm
  • 4 sec at f18  •   ISO 800  •   Canon 430 flash
  • Pima County, Arizona, USA
Copyright in WPY competition photographs remains the property of the respective photographers. You may not copy, share, reproduce or republish the photographs except as expressly permitted by copyright law. For media image usage enquiries, please contact us.

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