Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Rodentia Heteromyidae

Scientific Name: Dipodomys elator
Species Authority: Merriam, 1894
Common Name(s):
English Texas Kangaroo Rat

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable B1ab(i,ii,iii) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Linzey, A.V. & NatureServe (Wahl, R., Roth, E., Hammerson, G. & Horner, P.)
Reviewer(s): Amori, G. (Small Nonvolant Mammal Red List Authority) & Chanson, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Listed as Vulnerable because its extent of occurrence is less than 20,000 km², its range is severely fragmented, and there is a continuing decline in its extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, and the extent and quality of its habitat.
Previously published Red List assessments:
1996 Vulnerable (VU)
1994 Rare (R)
1990 Rare (R)
1988 Rare (R)
1986 Rare (R)
1982 Rare (R)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The species' range encompasses a small area in north-central Texas and adjacent Oklahoma (Caire et al. 1989, Schmidly, 2004). Surveys in Texas from 1985 to 1987 yielded occurrences in Cottle, Hardeman, Wilbarger, and Wichita counties (Jones et al., 1988); one specimen was obtained in 1989 in Motley County (Martin and Matocha, 1991), and a new county record for Childress County was obtained in 1987 (Wahl, unpublished data). Apparently, there are few, if any, populations remaining in Archer, Baylor, Clay, and Montague counties (southeastern part of the range in Texas).

The first report from Oklahoma was by Bailey in 1905 (Carter et al. 1985); the species has been very infrequently recorded since then (e.g., Baumgardner, 1987; Caire et al. 1989). A 1988 survey yielded no observations of this species in Oklahoma (Moss and Mehlhop-Cifelli, 1990), but subsequent surveys have yielded a few specimens.
Countries occurrence:
United States (Oklahoma, Texas)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Considering all occurrences of occupied habitat, both current and historical, there are certainly more than 21 occurrences or subpopulations, but probably less than 100 (Martin and Matocha, 1972; Jones et al., 1988; Stangl and Schafer, 1990; Shaw, 1990; Martin and Matocha, 1991). However, if only extant occurrences with good estimated viability are considered, the number of occurrences probably drops to fewer than 20 (Martin pers. comm.). Based on recent surveys (Martin pers. comm.), population size probably exceeds 1,000. This number, however, is difficult to confirm since colonies are known only from private property, and access is often difficult to obtain.

The distribution of this species has apparently decreased from 11 counties (including Oklahoma) to six counties. Areas that traditionally had stable populations or occurrences of Texas kangaroo rats in the late 1980s and early 1990s no longer seem to support an observable population. The vegetation in some of these traditional areas has become overgrown, and if individuals are present, they are in smaller, fragmented patches. However, this may be a normal cycling pattern for this species. Population sizes vary greatly over time, and literature from the late 1980s and early 1990s seem to indicate stable populations, but more recent surveys indicate a depression in numbers (Martin pers. comm.).
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: Yes

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: It prefers areas of short grass with open patches of bare ground, often with a high clay content. Patches of mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) have been associated with this species, but may not be essential. The open habitat allows a good view of the surrounding area. Dust baths appear to be essential to kangaroo rats both to maintain good condition of skin and fur, and also to facilitate territorial scent-marking. Primarily they are nocturnal, spending most of the day in burrow systems and emerging at night to forage on seeds, vegetation and insects. Most kangaroo rats will store a supply of seed within their burrows in case of long periods of drought. They are highly adapted to arid conditions and rarely need to drink water.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Available habitat has been greatly reduced and fragmented over the past several decades as a result of the conversion of land to agricultural uses and development. Prairie dogs create improved habitat conditions for the Texas kangaroo rat, and extirpation of most prairie dogs from within the range of D. elator may have negatively affected populations of the kangaroo rat. Rangeland management practices that result in dense growth of grasses, or the invasion of non-native grasses have degraded conditions for the kangaroo rat, which thrives in heavily grazed or otherwise disturbed conditions. Heavy cattle grazing is not a threat but rather yields good kangaroo rat habitat.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: It is protected as a Threatened non game species by the state of Texas, and is a federal C2 candidate taxon. No populations are known to occur in captivity. Most of the species' range is on privately owned lands, however, a few individuals were trapped at Copper Breaks State Park in Hardeman County in the 1980s, but no individuals have been observed in the 1990s (Martin pers. comm.). However, a road kill was recently (1997) obtained just outside the park boundary (Horner, unpubl. data), and an area less than 1 km from the park boundary is known to be occupied by this species. Most of the habitat in the park is no longer suitable habitat due to the growth of vegetation. Continued road spotlight surveys need to be conducted throughout the range, especially in those six counties where kangaroo rat populations are most abundant and observable. Also, access to private lands where colonies were found in the 1980s needs to be obtained. Colonies of various sizes need to be monitored to determine trends.

Citation: Linzey, A.V. & NatureServe (Wahl, R., Roth, E., Hammerson, G. & Horner, P.). 2008. Dipodomys elator. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T6675A12793755. . Downloaded on 04 October 2015.
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