U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Sacramento Fish & Wildlife OfficeServing the people, conserving the fish, wildlife, and plants of California

A Unit Of The Pacific Southwest Region

Kids' Species Information

Giant Kangaroo Rat, by Tamara Nunes

Giant Kangaroo Rat: Dipodomys ingens


Endangered. This means that the species is in danger of dying out.


>Giant kangaroo rats have sandy-colored fur. Their bellies are white. They have a white stripe across their hips. There is a tuft on the end of the tail.

Giant Kangaroo Rat on man's arm

Adults are 31-35 centimeters long. (About 13 inches) This includes a 16-19 cm tail. (About 7 inches.) They weigh 130-180 grams. (About 5 ½ ounces) They are the largest kangaroo rat.

Kangaroo rats are not what you think of as rats. They are not like common household rats.

Why "Kangaroo"? They hop on their hind feet like a kangaroo.


Mainly seeds. Also green plants and insects. They forage at night.

Kangaroo rats can survive without water. They convert seeds into water. They don't sweat or pant to keep cool. They live in burrows and come out at night. Their kidneys produce very little urine. Maybe we should call them "camel rats"!


Dry, sandy grasslands.


January to May. Litters average 3 babies.


Barn and Great-Horned Owls. Coyotes, Kit Foxes and Badgers. Rattlesnakes, Gopher Snakes, King Snakes and Coachwhips.


Western San Joaquin Valley, including the Carrizo and Elkhorn Plains, and the Kettleman Hills.


Loss of habitat to agriculture. Only about 2% of the species' original habitat remains.


Kangaroo Rats (PDF 1.4MB) from the California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation. This publication is designed to help farmers avoid kangaroo rats. But it has lots of pictures and information.

Thelander, C. ed. 1994. Life on the edge: a guide to California's endangered natural resources. BioSystem Books. Santa Cruz, CA. p 72-73.

Photo credit: Photo at the top of the page - Tamara Nunes, Caltrans. Linked photo of the Carrizo Plain - Adam Zennerer, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Words to Learn

Biologists call giant kangaroo rats Dipodomys ingens. Scientific names are in Latin or Greek.

Giant kangaroo rats are in the Heteromyidae family.

Kangaroo rats are active at night. Scientists say they are nocturnal. Animals who are active during the day are called diurnal.

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Last updated: November 29, 2017