|The giant kangaroo rat is endemic to California and it is the largest of the 21
species of kangaroo rats. Once ranging throughout California’s Central Valley, the
giant kangaroo rat is federally endangered due to habitat loss and is now restricted
to 6 remnant populations, the largest of which occurs in the Carrizo Plain National
Although they are called a kangaroo rat, they are actually related to gophers. There
are 6 species of kangaroo rat and they are all facing extinction. All living in the
western United States, they prefer desert environments.
The Kangaroo rat is only 2 inches tall and hop instead of walk. They love to take
dust baths and have been seen stuffing seeds into their cheek pouches.
These cute critters were thriving until the 1950’s when pest control measures killed
them off. Farmers went to war with them because they came into the newly plowed
fields to make burrows. Gas and oil exploration also reduced their numbers.
The survival of the Kangaroo rat is important to the survival of other animals in their
ecosystems. They eat seed and nuts from plants with the largest plants leaving
plants with smaller seeds to thrive. If the Kangaroo rat disappeared, which is quite
possible, the large plants with larger seeds will push out the smaller seed plants
leaving many bird species without food.
Recent reports are coming from California conservationists who believe the kangaroo
rats habit has been restored. We hope this is the case and that these cute little
animals re-build their numbers quickly.
Steinhart, P. California's Wild Heritage: Threatened and Endangered Animals in the
Golden State. 1990.
Snyder, H. The California Condor: A Saga of Natural History and Conservation. 2000.