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Kangaroo Rats

posted Oct 29, 2016, 10:24 AM by Lynn Moody
The other evening I was in the chicken yard, putting the chickens to bed, and encountered this little creature, a kangaroo rat.  I read a little about them, and decided to share.

I know these two photos are very similar but there is a subtle difference between the photos and I like them both, so I am putting them both in!

Kangaroo rats are in the same family as pocket mice (who knew?!) and the family name is Heteromyidae (if you're interested in such things).  They make underground burrows - we have their burrows all over the place - which they use for shelter, nesting, and caching food.  They eat seeds and some green vegetation, the greens get eaten right away and the seeds are stored.  Some species never drink water, instead their bodies manufacture water from their food.  They have litters ranging in number from 1 to 8, in late spring through early fall.  I guess that explains why we have so many, judging from the number of burrows we find.  They drum with their hind feet (like rabbits) and this might be to establish territory, or a response to predators.  They can run or hop and we have seen them at night doing both - they are nocturnal as you could guess from their big eyes.  We very rarely see them during the day.  Kangaroo rats take dust baths or sand baths for grooming and to mark territory.  At burrow entrances, we often see imprints of their long tails.  They are eaten by any nocturnal carnivore, and I believe the barn owls (probably other owls too) prey on them.

There's a photo of a barn owl sleeping in the barn, on an airplane wing, waiting for night to hunt.  This is the parent of a nest of owlets.  As of last night, the owlets were flying around and beginning to disperse - I hope they stick around to continue to keep the nocturnal rodents in check.

Kangaroo rats are very numerous around here, some species are endangered, not sure what species ours is but we have plenty of them.  They don't seem to be pests, most likely their numbers are kept in check by predators, we can't see that they do any harm - unlike the woodrats which eat my garden plants and chew up the wiring in our pickup truck which is too big to park in the garage.  The barn owls are welcome to the woodrats too.
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