Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
The Ord's kangaroo rat is distinguishable from other North Dakota small mammals with its long, bushy-tipped tail and huge hind feet. Its overall body length is ten inches but its tail comprises over half of this length. Kangaroo rats are relatively small, weighing roughly two ounces. They are brownish yellow with a blackish wash. The tail has a dark stripe on the top and bottom. The area between the tail stripes, belly, and flank stripes is white.
Kangaroo rats are found only in southwestern North Dakota in sandy soils. Sandy soils allow easy burrowing and provide for their characteristic dust baths. Vegetation associated with these habitats is shrub land with grasses and areas of bare soil. Entrances to the burrows do not exhibit mounds of dirt around them, often due to wind which carries sandy soils away. Burrows can be quite extensive and nesting and food storage areas are separate. If burrows are occupied, entrance holes are plugged. Nests are constructed of plant fibers.
Little is known about the reproduction of the kangaroo rat in North Dakota. Investigations in South Dakota showed that females had between one and three young. Even though two litters per year have been documented in southern states, it is likely that only one litter is born of females this far north.
Foods utilized by this species include both plants and insects. Seeds from plants such as grasses, ragweed, wild sunflower and Russian thistle are harvested with aid of the front feet and carried to the burrow in cheek pouches. Because grass seeds contain little water, adaptations have been made to conserve what little water is taken in. Their skin has no sweat glands and their urine is about three times more concentrated than humans.
The manner in which these small mammals move is quite different than other rodents. The large rear feet can propel them as far as six feet when being pursued. More often, they make short hops or "walk" with both feet. In any circumstances, small front feet are not utilized. The large tail may act as a counter balance and aid in keeping the animal upright during a jump. Fighting behavior is also unique to these rodents. It resembles the double-foot kick of the marsupials, such as the kangaroo. Kangaroo rats forage for food at night and are therefore susceptible to predation by owls. Badgers and coyotes dig them up and snakes may get some by entering their burrows.