Lee Richardson Zoo

Ord's kangaroo rat

Order:  Rodentia - – Rats, mice, gopher, chinchilla, beaver, porcupine, etc.
Family: Heteromyidae - kangaroo mice, pocket mice and spiny pocket mice
Scientific Name:Dipodomys ordii


Description:  All individuals of this group possess the same markings on their long smooth fur. Their backside is an overall tawny brown with some black fur scattered along the spine and black facial fur in the shape of “ram’s horns” above their nose. They also have white patches above and behind the eyes as well as a white stripe of fur extending across each hip. The belly and bottoms of the feet are covered in white fur. The tail is fur covered; with light to dark tawny coloration on top with white fur running along the sides of the tail and ending with a tuft of longer grey fur. Body length from nose to rump is 21- 36.5 cm in males and 20.8- 36 cm in females. The tail is around 12.9 cm in males and 12.7 cm in females. Adult mass can range from 55 to 96 grams but is extremely variable depending on food availability throughout different seasons.


Home Range:  Can be found from southern Alberta and Saskatchewan down to southern Hidalgo, Mexico. Their range continues from central Kansas and Oklahoma west to central Oregon and eastern California. .  


Habitat Type:  A variety of vegetation types of the semi-arid grasslands of the Great Plains is suitable for the Ord’s kangaroo rat.


Reproduction:  Ord’s kangaroo rat is solitary unless it is breeding season. Breeding season can occur twice a year, spring and fall, but is dependent on environmental cues of damp weather conditions. Drought years can lead to low reproduction or no reproduction. After copulation the average gestation period is 29 days and can yield one to three offspring. The young will develop full adult coloration and fur just short of a month of age. The young will reach sexual maturity at around two months of age.
Diet in the Wild:  Diet is composed of primarily small seeds but they will consume green vegetation as available. In summer, protein becomes a larger part of the diet in the form of grasshoppers and moths.


Diet in the Zoo:  Commercial rodent chow, in the form of pellets, and fresh greens


General Information: This species is the most widespread of all kangaroo rats. They are nocturnal and come out of their burrows for about two hours each night to forage and explore. The burrows which are created in sandy or fine soil can vary in size from simple, with a single tunnel and entrance, to complex, with multiple cavities and entrances, depending on available space in the habitat and competition for burrow sites. While constructing a burrow the Ord’s kangaroo rat will scent mark their site by rubbing oil, produced from a gland between their shoulders, on to the walls of the tunnels. To remove excess oil, and clean their fur, they will bathe in sand outside the entrance to their burrow which in turn creates additional scent markers of their territory. If another Ord’s kangaroo enters their territory, outside of breeding season, they will attempt to remove the invader by jumping at each other and kicking with their hind feet. When foraging, they will travel as much as 25 yards away from their burrow to gather food. They do not eat in the open but instead use their fur lined cheek pouches to transport the food back to their burrow. Some food will be consumed immediately while the remainder will be stored in caches for later. On foraging expeditions they will move slowly using all four limbs where the front two legs are placed on the ground for balance during slow, small, hops of the two hind feet. When eating, or resting, they can sit on their hind legs and use their long tail for balance while the front legs manipulate food. The Ord’s kangaroo rat possess a strong sense of hearing, smell and night vision. Vocalization by the Ord’s kangaroo rat is not frequent but they can produce soft squeaks, growls, and grunts. Instead of vocalizing they are more likely to produce loud thumping noises with their hind feet if disturbed. Predators of Ord’s kangaroo rat include owls, snakes, foxes, coyotes, and American badgers. They avoid predators with long leaps, sometimes over 2 meters, where the large hind legs and feet propel them forward while the front legs are kept close to the body and the long tail is extended for balance. If necessary they will also use their hind legs to kick sand in the face of the predator and distract them.


Conservation Status:  The wild population is classified by IUCN Red List as “least concern”.




Hafner, D. J. (2016). Family Heteromyidea (pocket mice, kangaroo mice and kangaroo rats) Pp. 170- 193, 227 in: Wilson, D. E., Lacher, T. E. Jr., & Mittermeier, R. A. eds. (2016). Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Vol. 6. Lagomorphs and Rodents 1. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. Linzey, A.V. & Timm, R. 2008. Dipodomys ordii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T6691A12796818. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T6691A12796818.en. Downloaded on 05 December 2016. Teh, P. 2001. "Dipodomys ordii" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 06, 2016 at http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Dipodomys_ordii/