Despite its name, the kangaroo rat is a rodent, not a marsupial.
A Rodent that Leaps Like a Kangaroo
Despite the name, Ord’s kangaroo rat is simply a rodent, not a marsupial. Its name derives from the kangaroo-like leaps it sometimes makes when excited, jumping on its long hind feet and using its tail as balance. It may leap as far as 6 feet and as high as 2 feet. Characterized by its thick body, long tufted tail, short forelimbs and long hind feet with five toes, the rat is generally yellowish-brown washed with black on top and white on its lower parts.
The most common of the kangaroo rats, Ord’s kangaroo rat ranges from southern Canada to central Mexico, preferring deserts, grasslands and open scrubland with sandy soil. Strictly nocturnal, it spends its days in excavated burrows lined with dry grasses and seed husks, covering the entrance with sand to keep out light, predators and heat. Eating mostly seeds that it stores in large quantities in its burrows, the kangaroo rat supplements its diet with insects, flower parts, tubers and grasses. Ord’s kangaroo rats ferry stores of seeds to their burrows in cheek pouches. Along with dew condensation, seeds provide most of the animal’s water, which it is well-adapted to conserve.
Mating season varies with region, generally beginning with the emergence of green vegetation. Gestation lasts about 28-32 days, usually producing a litter of 3 young, who are sexually mature in a little over 80 days. If they’re not eaten by rattlesnakes, skunks, coyotes or owls, they may survive more than two years.