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Stephen's kangaroo rat        Images © Mark A. Chappell

Kangaroo rats (genus Dipodomys) are a group of burrowing North American rodents specialized for seed-eating.   They are named for their hopping locomotion and have large hind feet, long tails, and short front limbs used mainly for gathering seeds, which are carried in fur-lined external cheek pouches.   All kangaroo rats closely resemble each other (check the links below), although they vary by about 4-fold in size.   This species, Stephen's kangaroo rat, lives only in western Riverside County, California and a few adjacent areas.  It is a Federally-listed endangered species, because its favorite habitat -- grasslands -- is also the favorite habitat of housing developments.   Several other California K-rats are also endangered because of habitat loss.   Listing of this species was highly controversial because it brought development to a halt until a species recovery plan could be designed.   Many people were offended that 'a rat' was being federally protected, but as you can see it is a much more interesting and attractive animal than a standard rat.   I photographed these on warm summer evenings at the University of California's Motte Rimrock Reserve, one of the few strongholds of Stephen's kangaroo rat.

These links lead to images of Ord's, Panamint, Dulzura, Merriam's, short-nosed, and giant kangaroo rats, and the related Great Basin pocket mouse. Click here to see one of the 'neighbors' of Stephens' kangaroo rat at the Motte Reserve.

  • Canon 1D Mk. II or 1D3, 500 IS lens plus 1.4X or 2X converter and electronic flash (2006, 2009)