The Texas Kangaroo Rat’s Battle for Survival

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing the Texas Kangaroo Rat as an endangered species

TPWD | Public Domain
Texas Kangaroo Rat

At first glance, the Texas Kangaroo Rat looks like a typical rodent, but if you take a closer look, you will find its exceptionally long feet, which it relies on to hop away from predators. Its tail, tipped with a tuft of white fur, is 162% the length of its body. Its cheeks may appear to be swollen, but they actually hold two external pouches used to store food. Adapted to arid environments, the Texas Kangaroo Rat survives droughts by collecting moisture from plants and storing food. These strange but adorable critters have many unique characteristics, and there is still much more to learn about them–but we may be running out of time to do so. 

This small, brown rodent is primarily native to Texas, presiding in 11 counties in north-central Texas and 2 in southern Oklahoma. It thrives in grassy habitats with loose dirt, where it lives in mounds and scavenges for seeds and grains. However, in recent centuries, heavy development has encroached on its native environment, leading to an increase in the hunting of other animals that share its habitat. This, in turn, has led to a decline in American bison and black-tailed prairie dog populations, which Texas Kangaroo Rats relied on for “natural assemblage,” disturbed patches on the landscape that provided suitable habitat for the species. Consequently, the Texas Kangaroo Rats are now facing a declining population. Their habitat is being further disturbed by development and agricultural operations, and according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, climate change and fire suppression will only exacerbate these existing habitat disruptions. 

Due to the abundance of private land and paved roads in the area, tracking the Texas Kangaroo Rat’s population distribution has been difficult, but as a result of this habitat loss, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service submitted the proposal to list the Texas Kangaroo Rat as endangered. The service seeks to conserve this species by protecting the remaining population from further habitat loss and promote “habitat management practices that favor its survival.” Should this proposal lead to a listing, these little guys might have a chance.


Mara Asmis

Wildlife and Wild Places Intern

Luke Metzger

Executive Director, Environment Texas Research & Policy Center

As the director of Environment Texas, Luke is a leading voice in the state for clean air, clean water, clean energy and open space. Luke has led successful campaigns to win permanent protection for the Christmas Mountains of Big Bend; to compel Exxon, Shell and Chevron Phillips to cut air pollution at three Texas refineries and chemical plants; and to boost funding for water conservation and state parks. The San Antonio Current has called Luke "long one of the most energetic and dedicated defenders of environmental issues in the state." He has been named one of the "Top Lobbyists for Causes" by Capitol Inside, received the President's Award from the Texas Recreation and Parks Society for his work to protect Texas parks, and was chosen for the inaugural class of "Next Generation Fellows" by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at UT Austin. Luke, his wife, son and daughter are working to visit every state park in Texas.