Desert Kangaroo Rat

Dipodomys deserti

Summary 3

The Desert Kangaroo Rat is a small rodent with a long tail and large hind legs/feet with four toes. The tail is slightly darker than the rest of the body with light sides and a small tuft near the end (kind of like a gerbil) they have a large head that seems disproportionate to its body size. The kangaroo rat has a body size of approximately 3.5-5.5 inches (9-12 inches if you include the tail) long. The Kangaroo rat is light brown in color with a white or tan underbelly. They eat seeds from various desert grasses and occasionally will eat green vegetation and few insects. The scat of the kangaroo rat is approximately the size of a grain of rice, and looks very similar to that of a mouse(see photo above). The tracks of the kangaroo rat are small (approx. 1 cm wide and 2-3 cm long). they are easily identified due to the tail mark that is left behind the tracks( see above photos). The desert kangaroo rat is found only in the south west corner of Washington County Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California, and Mexico.

Additional Information 4

The desert kangaroo rat, Dipodomys deserti, is a rodent species in the family Heteromyidae that is found in desert areas of southwestern North America. It is one of the large kangaroo rats, with a total length greater than 12 inches (30 cm) and a mass greater than 3.2oz (91g).

Associations 5

Desert kangaroo rats serve as prey to snakes, hawks, owls, bobcats, spotted skunks, coyotes and foxes (Best, 1999).

Known Predators:

  • hawks (Accipitridae)
  • owls (Strigiformes)
  • bobcats (Lynx rufus)
  • eastern spotted skunks (Spilogale putorius)
  • coyotes (Canis latrans)
  • swift foxes (Vulpes velox)

Habitat 6

Dipodomys deserti is adapted to live in the lowest, hottest, and most arid regions of North America (Nader, 1978). D. deserti is associated with areas that have substantial accumulations of wind driven sand. The number of sand dunes may limit the distribution of D. deserti, but they may be present in arid regions that have silty ground and are also known to occur at one locality in central Arizona where the soil is gravelly (Best et al., 1989).

In contrast to larger members of the genus, desert kangaroo rats occur in areas that receive little precipitation. To compensate for the extreme and prolonged aridity of the region, they are restricted to sand dunes, which harbor richer food sources.

D. deserti uses mainly un-vegetated mounds for burrow sites. Burrows are typically made in areas which are not highly ephemeral. On the surface, the burrow is lumpy, uneven and has many sloping entrances that lead down into the maze of passages. Some of these may be plugged with dirt. Underground chambers consist of multiple storerooms and a central nest. Within these chambers, D. deserti stores large amounts of mesquite pods and other plant seeds.

Desert kangaroo rats may form widely spaced colonies with clusters of 6-12 large burrows in each colony. However, these colonies rarely last for long periods of time and will be moved when food is scarce (Best et al., 1989).

Range elevation: -60 to 1,710 m.

Habitat Regions: terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune

Other Habitat Features: agricultural

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Skyler Maynes, all rights reserved, uploaded by Skyler Maynes
  2. (c) 1999 California Academy of Sciences, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  3. (c) Skyler Maynes, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA)
  4. Adapted by Skyler Maynes from a work by (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA),
  5. (c) The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  6. (c) The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),

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