What gives the Kangaroo Rats (Genus: Dipodomys) their name? One look at their strong hind legs will tell you why they share the same name as the down under marsupials. These interesting small rodents are highly efficient, athletic, and well-adapted. Kangaroo rats are the size of a small fist and use their long hind legs to jump as far as nine feet! They have pouches on the outside of their cheeks which are used to carry seeds back to their shelters. Kangaroo rats needs very little water to survive and can receive all the moisture it needs from plants. Kangaroo rats do not sweat or pant like other animals to keep cool. They have a very unique metabolism and specialized kidneys that allow them to survive without drinking water or consuming leaves. Kangaroo rats create a built-in humidifier in its underground shelter by plugging the entrance of the den with dirt during the day. The moisture from their breath keeps its den moist, and it has a specialized organ in its nasal passages that allows them to reabsorb moisture.
Kangaroo rats are active during the night, which makes it hard to find the rodents during the day. We can look for signs of kangaroo rats by looking for tracks around their habitats. They prefer habitats with sandy soil, perfect for digging their underground dens. When hopping, they just use their hind legs like a kangaroo. When they walk, they set all four legs down on the dirt.
Kangaroo rats can be found in the southeastern part of California. In Los Angeles County, you can find kangaroo rats in the Santa Clara River, Antelope Valley, and parts of San Andreas Significant Ecological Areas (SEA). They could have been found in San Gabriel area, Whittier Narrows, and along the coast at one time in the past.
The kangaroo rat is not an endangered listed species in LA County but their habitats are continually threatened by development, off-road vehicles, and animals such as cows and sheep that trample the ground. Domestic cats are also a threat to the kangaroo rat.