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Kangaroo Rats

Summary:Kangaroo rats can hop up to 6 feet at a time on large hind feet, yet the kangaroo rat is no relation to the kangaroos of Australia.

Did you know that there is a species of rat that jumps on its hind legs in order to move around? It can even hop up to six feet at a time. Does this sound like any other animal you may know from down under? This rat is appropriately named the kangaroo rat. Other than its mode of transportation, the kangaroo rat shares no similarities with kangaroos. They don't even have pouches to carry around their joeys. And speaking of joeys, female kangaroo rats usually produce about three offspring, but can have up to seven baby rats at a time.

The kangaroo rat is a type of rodent that has twenty-two species living in the United States. One unique fact about the kangaroo rat is that most of its species live only in California. Most kangaroo rats can only survive in the desert, but one species, called Ord's kangaroo rat, makes its home anywhere on the west coast between the northern and southern United States borders.

Here's something to stash away under œLittle known facts. Kangaroo rats don't sweat. No matter how hot the desert may get or how much activity, they do not sweat. P&G is researching this, I'm sure. Imagine the sales potential of that product.

This species of rat is also nocturnal. It spends its nights hopping around the desert for food. During the hot, dry days, the kangaroo rat sleeps in its burrow to avoid heat from the sun.

Kangaroo rats' bodies can measure four to sixteen inches in length, including their tails. The tails are long and usually measure the length of the rat's body. Kangaroo rats' tails tend to have brown or white tufts on them. Much like other animals, tails help the rats keep their balance. They also have adapted very big hind feet to aid them in hopping, fighting off predators, and burrowing. One neat fact about the kangaroo rats' feet is that they help keep them steady on the sandy desert ground.

When kangaroo rats get dirty, they don't bathe in water. This may be due to the fact that water is in short supply in the desert. Instead, the rats roll around in sand to get dirt off of their bodies. We already know they don't sweat, so now we know that the sand does not stick to their sweaty bodies.

These unique rats rarely drink any water. It's amazing that they can survive in the desert without taking in large amounts of H2O. Instead, kangaroo rats receive enough moisture from the foods they eat to sustain them. They typically feed on grasses, seeds, leaves, buds, stems, fruits, and sometimes insects for nourishment. The chisel-toothed kangaroo rat even eats the leaves of the saltbush because it is able to eat the parts containing the largest amount of nutrients and water.

Kangaroo rats carry food in their cheeks, just like chipmunks. Their cheeks can actually be turned out when the rats want to clean them. After finding food, kangaroo rats bury their treats in small holes or in their burrows. In the wintertime when less food is available, they eat food they have stored in order to survive.

There are five species of kangaroo rats that are endangered. They are the giant kangaroo rat, the Fresno kangaroo rat, Stephens' kangaroo rat, the Morro Bay kangaroo rat, and the Tipton kangaroo rat.
Unless you live in the desert, you have very little concern that the kangaroo rat will disturb you. However, some farmers have experienced damage to their alfalfa, corn, and sorghum crops because of these little critters.

There are several different ways farmers can keep kangaroo rats from damaging their crops:

  • Set up farms in very grassy areas. Kangaroo rats tend to avoid these areas because it can be very hard to find seeds.
  • Plant crops in early spring. Kangaroo rats are actively looking for food in late spring or early summer. They are usually still feeding off of their winter supply when early spring rolls around.
  • Install a rat-proof fence. Make sure it is deep enough that kangaroo rats will not be able to dig it up.
  • Using zinc phosphide to keep kangaroo rats away. This is a restricted product, but Federal laws allow its use to deter Ord's, bannertail, and Merriam kangaroo rats. Check your state and local laws to make sure this chemical is legal to use in your area.

Rat traps are an efficient way to keep kangaroo rats from damaging crops. These are better to use than traditional mouse traps because kangaroo rats are larger than mice. Peanut butter and oatmeal, corn, or oatmeal paste should be used as bait in the traps. If there are a lot of birds in the area it's best not to use corn in the traps.

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