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Species Spotlight: Endangered San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat Hops in Western Riverside County

Oct 18, 2022 | MSHCP, News, Species

Though named for our neighboring county to the north, the San Bernardino kangaroo rat makes its home within the western Riverside County MSHCP area of the San Jacinto River and Bautista Creek.

This small rodent, a federally endangered species and a State Species of Special Concern, has been in the news over the years, due to its dwindling habitat.

The kangaroo rat lives in Riverside County’s upland sage scrub, chaparral, and grasslands near rivers and creeks, allowing them to dig shallow burrows. The MSHCP notes that conserving Riverside alluvial fan and upland sage scrub is essential for supporting medium or higher density populations of kangaroo rats. The MSHCP has called for maintaining and restoring some habitats, such as floodplains, that will allow for natural regeneration.

The San Bernardino kangaroo rat typically grows to about 9 inches long, including its tail. With its large hind legs, it resembles a tiny kangaroo. The size of litters and breeding frequency depends on conditions and food availability. The species usually breeds twice a year from mid-winter to spring. They live approximately five years in the wild.

As a nocturnal species, k-rats are most active 3-4 hours after sunset. They are usually solitary; you won’t see them throwing parties near their burrows. While they tolerate their neighbors, they are very wary of strangers.

Their diet consists of herbs and insects where available. They also collect seeds and store them in their fur-lined cheeks for transport and in surface areas near their burrows. Unfortunately, they are also on the menu for many species such as bobcats, owls, and other animals. Their primary danger is through development and loss of habitat.

The MSHCP will conserve 4,440 acres of suitable habitat with the historic flood plains of the San Jacinto River and Bautista Creek and their tributaries so that this critter can hop to survival.