Description: The Ord's kangaroo rat is a heavy-bodied mouse that can be distinguished from other rodents in Kansas by: 1) short neck supporting a large head, 2) tail longer than the combined length of the head and body, and which ends in a tuft, 3) front feet much smaller than the hind feet, 4) external cheek pouches which open onto the surface of the cheeks on either side of the mouth, 5) soft pale cinnamon-buff fur mixed with black on the upperparts, 6) white face with conspicuous dark patches above and below the eyes, 7) white line running from the flanks and across the rump, and 8) thick hair on the soles of the feet. Juveniles are grayer than adults and lack bright colors. Sexes are alike and show only slight seasonal variation.
Size: Adults may attain the following dimensions: total length 245-276 mm; tail 131-156 mm; hind foot 39-44 mm; ear 12-15 mm; weight 54-94 grams.
Range and Habitat: The Ord's kangaroo rat occurs in the western half of the state in soft or sandy soils, preferably moving sands associate with dune formations, and blowouts on floodplains or adjacent sandy areas.
Reproduction: Litters of from two to five (usually three) individuals are born in an underground nest chamber, most often between May and September. They are born helpless, pink-skinned and with eyes and ears closed, after a gestation period of about thirty days. In six to eight days their upper parts are covered with hair. In two weeks their eyes are open and teeth are present. In two months they become independent of the female.
Habits: Ord's kangaroo rat is found where there is much bare, sandy soil. They are strictly nocturnal and are rarely seen above ground during the day. They spend the day in deep cool subterranean chambers lined with dry grasses and seed husks. The entrances, plugged with sand during the day, exclude heat, light and predators. Excavated sand forms a fan-shaped mound beyond the hole. If the sand is wind-blown both the entrance and mound of sand may be obliterated. Rattlesnakes sometimes take up a position just inside the entrance where they rest during the hottest part of the day and wait for a rat, mouse or other small animal to enter. Considerable activity occurs above ground in the soft sand. Foot tracks and the characteristic mark from the long tail (used for balance and as a prop) cover the sand and leave a record of the activity of the previous night. Movement is by erratic hopping and leaping on the large hind feet, essentially like the movement of a kangaroo. The small front feet are not used in locomotion but are placed on the ground when foraging. Trails lead from one hole to another. A warning sound is given by thumping the hind feet on the ground.
Food: Food of the Ord's kangaroo rat consists of mostly seeds, especially of "weedy" plants. Buds, tubers, and green leaves are also eaten, as are insects, especially in the spring. It is well-adapted to survive on a sparse diet. Other than moisture from dew, it obtains water from the seeds that it stores underground for food. Like pocket mice, the Ord's kangaroo rat carries seeds to its burrows in its cheek pouches. It makes large caches of seeds`.
Remarks: Owls, snakes, foxes, weasels, badgers, bobcats and other small carnivores prey upon the kangaroo rat.
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