||The Mammals of Texas -
Texas Kangaroo Rat
Rodentia : Family Heteromyidae
: Dipodomys elator Merriam
Description. A rather large, four-toed
kangaroo rat with conspicuous white "banner" on
tip of tail; tail long, relatively thick, and about 162%
of length of head and body; body large (about 121 mm in
length); upperparts buffy, washed with blackish;
underparts white. This species superficially resembles Dipodomys
spectabilis, but cranial
differences readily separate them, and their
distributions are disjunct. External measurements
average: total length, 317 mm; tail, 196 mm; hind foot,
46 mm. Dental formula as in Perognathus flavescens.
Distribution in Texas. Occurs in
north-central Texas from Cottle and Motley counties in
the west to Montague County in the east.
Habits. The Texas kangaroo rat
is a rare rodent with habitat preferences unusual for a
kangaroo rat. It lives on clay soils supporting sparse,
short grasses and small, scattered mesquite bushes. The
rats make trails leading to their burrows, which
invariably enter the ground at the base of a small
mesquite, often in such fashion that one root of the
mesquite forms the top or side of the opening. Scratching
and dusting places, so characteristic of other species of
kangaroo rats, are inconspicuous. The burrow is similar
to that of the Ords kangaroo rat, but usually it is
shorter and the animal does not plug the entrances during
the daytime. Highly nocturnal, these kangaroo rats do not
become active until complete darkness and reportedly
cease activity on moonlit nights.
D. elator feeds on the seeds,
stems, and leaves of grasses, forbs, and some perennials.
Analysis of material recovered from the cheek pouches of
52 kangaroo rats showed that the seeds of cultivated oats
(Avena) and Johnson grass (Sorghum) were
the most important food items, followed by annual forbs
such as storks bill (Erodium), broomweed (Xanthocephalum),
and bladderpod (Lesquerella). Shrubs and insects
were not greatly utilized for food. They store food to
carry them over periods of scarcity, as do most other
D. elator may breed year round.
Pregnant females have been collected in February, June,
July, and September. The young appear to develop rapidly
as subadult females collected in late summer have also
been pregnant. Two peaks in reproductive activity
in early spring and again in late summer may occur
as mature females give birth early in the year, and their
rapidly developing young become reproductively active in
late summer. Average number of embryos is three.
Remarks. The Texas kangaroo rat
is listed as "threatened" by the Texas Parks
and Wildlife Department. The primary threat is the
clearing of the mesquite brush to which it is restricted.
Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife.