Kangaroo rat (Dipodomys)

The kangaroo rat is an attractive, bright-eyed little rodent who can go weeks, even years, without seeking water from springs or ponds, getting all the water he needs from the oxidation of his food. His underground den may go as deep as three or four feet underground, making him impervious to the baking heat of summer days. By night he stuffs his fur-lined cheek pouches with seeds such as fescuegrass, mesquite, paloverde, Russian thistle and grama grass and scurries back to his den with his harvest. Kangaroo rats live singly rather than communally, and fierce battles have been described as ensuing when a prowler is caught trying to pilfer from his neighbor's stores.

Ord's kangaroo rat, Dover PublicationsSeveral species of kangaroo rat can be seen in southern Arizona including Dipodomys spectabilis, the banner-tailed kangaroo rat; Dipodomys merriami, Merriam kangaroo rat, and Dipodomys ordii, the Ord kangaroo rat (shown in drawing above), which has the widest range. All of these kangaroo rats use their large hind legs and tail for propelling themselves as they leap about and use their smaller upper limbs primarily for gathering food and digging in the loose soil to help in clearing tunnels. The serious digging for larger cavities and tunnels, however, is done with the stronger hind limbs.

Recommended reading:

Jaeger, Edmund C. "Chapter 12, The Kangaroo Rat," Desert Wildlife. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1950, 1961.

McClelland, Elizabeth A. Small Animals of North America. Dover Pictorial Archive Series. New York: Dover Publications Inc., 1981.

Wild Animals: CD ROM and book. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2003.

The Animal Rescue Site