Arizona wildlife, sorta

Arizona wildlife, sorta

The Merriam Kangaroo Rat is amazingly adapted to desert life.  It doesn’t need to drink water.  They can metabolize enough water from their diet of desert grass and mesquite bean seeds.  They manage to extract half a gram of water for every gram of seed they eat. Pretty cool, huh? They don’t sweat to keep the water in their bodies. On occasion, they will vary their food with green vegetation and insects.

A kangaroo rat’s biggest problem is everybody wants to eat them: snakes, owls, bobcats, and coyotes.  Even cats and dogs agree on this and will gobble them up as well.  Luckily, although tiny — only 3.5 to 5.5 inches in length, their large hindlegs allow them to jump up to 9 feet to escape.  They will also kick sand into the eyes of a predator.  They have excellent hearing and hear the approach of owls and snakes, giving them a chance to escape. They can hop away at speeds up to 12mph.

Kangaroo rats dig underground burrows near a shrub or bush to hideout and sleep during the day, coming out when the desert night brings the temperatures down.

Kangaroo rat photography by National Park Service

Their tail is longer than their body being up to 5.5 to 6.5 inches long. They have extra cheek pouches so they can carry seeds back to their burrow.  They will often hide two cheekfuls worth of seeds in caches.  A University of Utah scientist took the seeds out of their cache to see if it was spatial memory or smell that helped them to re-find their cache.  The poor things would look first where they knew they hid their seeds before giving up and going somewhere else to find fresh seeds proving that the kangaroo rat remembers where it hid its caches. Prior scientists had assumed that it was their sense of smell and not memory that helped them to find their caches.

The Merriam Kangaroo rats are not endangered although there are several Californian Kangaroo rat subspecies that are endangered. University of Berkeley-California scientists even did a project of counting burrows of giant kangaroo rats of Carrizo Plain National Monument using Israeli satellite photos. They cut the grass around their burrows in a circle to dry them out before bringing the grass indoors.  These little circles is what the scientists were counting in the photos.



Animal Fact Sheet: Merriam’s Kangaroo Rat
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Kangaroo Rat
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Arizona
National Park Service

Memory for cache locations in Merriam’s kangaroo rats
Summary on ScienceDirect
by Lucia F.Jacobs, Animal Behaviour, Volume 43, Issue 4, April 1992, Pages 585-593

Counting kangaroo rats from space : Using a borrowed spy satellite to spot this species’ distinctive burrow entrances, researchers track their numbers in hopes of protecting biodiversity on the Carrizo Plain in south-central California
By Dick Cortén, UCBerkeley news, October 22, 2008

Kangaroo Rats
by Diana E. Sjoberg, James A. Young, Kent McAdoo, and Raymond A. Evans, Rangelands, Iss.6 Vol.1, February 1984, pp. 11-13

One Word Photo Challenge: Mouse
(I figure the Kangaroo Rat was close enough)

CFFC : Wildlife
Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge
Ceen Photography

Park Mall mural photographs by M. Nakazato LaFreniere

©2018 text and photographs by M. Nakazato LaFreniere, all rights reserved

8 Replies to “Arizona wildlife, sorta”

  1. I have read so many posts about the blogger lovers however this post is really a good piece of writing, keep it up

    1. Yay! I’m glad you liked it. I thought the kangaroo rat was interesting too. I was surprised to find out it can jump nine feet.

        1. The rattlesnake is sneaking up on the kangaroo rat but the rat can run 12mph and a rattlesnake can only go up to 3mph so I am imagining it got away this time — although it’s close because the owl is after it too.

    1. Yay! I’m glad you liked the wildlife art — hard for me to photograph running animals in the wild like yours because by the time I focus they are gone.

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