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Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
Mammals Around Las Vegas, Wildlife Around Las Vegas
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)

General: Kangaroo rats are recognized by their kangaroo-like appearance: they have large hind legs and feet, small front legs and feet, long tufted tails, and they hop on their hind legs like Australian kangaroos. Merriam's is the smallest kangaroo rat species around Las Vegas.

Like real kangaroos, kangaroo rats also have a pouch, or rather, two pouches for carrying things. Kangaroo rats have external, fur-lined cheek pouches that they use to carry seeds and other food items into their burrow for storage. Most animals carry food in their mouth (e.g., dogs and cats) or in their cheeks (squirrels), but kangaroo rats actually have an extra pouch on the outside of their cheeks.

Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)

Kangaroo rats are very common in some parts of the desert. In desert flats, almost all of the "snake" holes around the base of bushes are kangaroo rat burrows. They are solitary, and a single individual digs a burrow with a nest chamber with many entrances.

Family: Rodentia (Gnawing animals such as mice, rats, squirrels, and beaver).

Description: Merriam's Kangaroo Rats (Dipodomys merriami) are small for kangaroo rats (head and body: 3-4 inches; tail: 5-6 inches; total length to about 10 inches). color pale yellowish brown above, white below. Tail tuft dark. Hind foot with 4 toes; toes are clearly visible through the hairs. Tail dark with light stripes on the sides; white stripes wider than dark stripes. Around Las Vegas, this is the small, 4-toed k-rat.

Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)

Diet: Feeds primarily on dry seeds; also eats some green vegetation when available. Does not require free water; can metabolize water from a diet of dry seeds.

Habitat: Found in great numbers on desert flats and bajadas in the Lower Sonoran (Creosote-Bursage Flats) and Upper Sonoran (Mojave Desert Scrub) life zones, and fades out in the Upper Sonoran (Pinyon-Juniper Woodland) life zone.

Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
Looking inside an external, fur-lined cheek pouch. Inside the dark opening, the white fir on the right side is on the outside of the cheek.

Range: Northwestern Nevada and southeastern California, south and east into northern Mexico. In Nevada, this species is found in lower-elevation desert areas into the northwest corner of the state, and it is widespread and abundant around Las Vegas in the appropriate habitat.

Breeding: Produce several litters of 1-5 pups per year; born January to August.

Comments: Nocturnal and solitary. When excited, kicks sand and drums the ground with its hind feet.

Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
Four toes and not too much fir.

Predation: Everything eats kangaroo rats. Owls are a primary predator, and snakes, kit foxes, coyotes, and bobcats take many. When startled, a kangaroo rats often jump straight up into the air some 1-2 feet, then take off flying on two hind feet and a tail. The tail is held out behind for balance and the forelegs are tucked against the chest.

Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami) tracks Tracks in the sand left by a slow-moving kangaroo rat. Note the paired footprints and tail-drag.
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami) burrows Kangaroo rat burrow entrances. All of these holes probably go into only 3 or 4 burrows. K-rat burrows almost always dip into the earth at a shallow angle (never steep), which facilitates dashing into the burrow at a high rate of speed when a kit fox or great horned owl is on your tail. The tunnel usually is round with a flat bottom, and the excavated dirt is pushed out and scattered in one direction. Inside the burrow, k-rats often pile up sand to block the entrance during the day. This keeps humid air inside the burrow (helps with water retention) and hopefully keeps snakes outside!
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami) Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami) Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
Catching kangaroo rats at Yucca Mountain
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
Kangaroo rat burrow; notice the small size and flat entrance
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
K-rat burrow; notice the round tube with flat floor
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
K-rat burrow; looks like they have been doing some spring cleaning
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
K-rat seed cache hole; notice narrow trench with steep sides
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
K-rat seed cache hole; notice the tail mark
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
K-rat foot prints and tail marks in red sand
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
Burrows in sand mound under creosote bush
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
Burrows in sand mound under creosote bush
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
The hazards of digging shallow burrows in soft sand: collapsed kangaroo rat burrow
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
Blocked up with dirt from the inside, this mouse keeps monsters and wind-blown debris out of its home
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
Entrance blocked from the inside
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys merriami)
Entrance blocked from the inside (zoom)

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 170630

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